Thousands of people gathered in Madison, Wisconsin, on Thursday, protesting a bill that would strip teachers and other public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights and increase their contributions for benefits.
Demonstrators spilled into the state's Capitol building, chanting, "This is our house" and "Forward not backward," voicing their opposition to legislation supported by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
At least 15 school systems in Wisconsin canceled class for a second day, said Madison Metropolitan School District spokesman Ken Syke, because of a call by the Wisconsin Education Association Council for people to come to the Capitol on Thursday and Friday to "stand beside your neighbors, family and friends to help our voices be heard."
Syke earlier said about 40 percent of 2,600 teachers, assistants, social workers and psychologists in the bargaining unit called in sick late Tuesday, forcing the Madison district to cancel Wednesday's classes for 24,500 students.
School officials in Oregon, south of Madison, said they canceled classes Thursday because of anticipated staff absences.