Local News

Apex teachers speak out about dwindling morale, pay

Posted May 21, 2014

— About 60 teachers from Apex High School rallied outside their school Wednesday morning to speak out about compensation and dwindling teacher morale.

Greg Thomas, one of the teachers participating in Wednesday's rally, said educators want the public to know how they feel about the state's education system.

"Our superintendent and school board has done a lot for us, but we felt like we needed to get out and let the public know that our teachers are very concerned about our future and what is going in education," Thomas said.

Salaries for the state's teachers are among the lowest in the country. Educators have received one across-the-board pay raise since 2008 – a 1.2 percent bump in 2013 – as lawmakers coped with pinched state revenues or shifted money to other priorities.

Gov. Pat McCrory unveiled a plan two weeks ago that would give all teachers an average 2 percent pay raise this year. That is on top of a plan he and legislative leaders announced to raise the base pay for starting teachers.

Betty Brown, a teacher for 36 years, said Wednesday that she thinks there is a "general lack of respect" toward teachers, "primarily from the General Assembly." Brown also said she's doubtful about teachers getting a pay increase in 2014. 

"We won't get a raise. The talk is good, but talk is cheap and it's been a long time since the General Assembly has really, truly supported pay raises," she said. "They talk about pay raises, but as far enacting them, no."

In the last several months, teachers across the state have also been outspoken about how compensation is impacting teacher turnover numbers.

The annual teacher turnover report to the State Board of Education said that 13,616 teachers left their jobs in 2012-13, primarily to teach somewhere else.

The statewide rate of 14 percent of teachers leaving their jobs was an increase from the previous year's turnover of 12 percent and 11 percent in 2010-11. Increasingly, the teachers leaving have worked long enough to earn job security, called tenure. About half the teachers quitting last year had tenure, a percentage that has risen each year from 35 percent in 2008-2009.

About 7 percent of those leaving last year blamed it on a decision to change careers or because they were dissatisfied with teaching, about the same as the previous year.

Thomas said teacher pay is the key first step to fixing teacher morale and keeping teachers in the state.

"That start will be better pay. We think that the teachers are leaving because of pay and other things that have been done, taking away master's pay, the tenure issue," Thomas said. "We're afraid all of the teachers leaving the profession is going to destroy the education system."

Brown said Wednesday's protest was about much more than compensation. 

"We should be paid for advanced degrees, and this new bill that got rid of pay for master's degrees, it's ridiculous," she said. "Teachers should also be given time for staff development. There should be fewer demands placed on us each year if there is not going to be equal attempts to give us time to implement these policies."


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  • Terry Watts May 22, 2014
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    Thank you for your service, but that fact that the military pays low wages isn't a factor here. Its a false equivalence. Rather than telling teacher to "take the pain", why not support raises for both teachers and soldiers???

  • Clinton Tingen May 22, 2014
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    I am also a graduate of Apex and had Queen Betty Brown as well as Coach Thomas. Both are great individuals and teachers. However, I am sick and tired of hearing complaints about teachers pay. After I left Apex High I signed a contract and agreed to the pay that was offered. It wasn't sprung on me later that I would be making below the poverty line to put myself in harms way to defend my Country. I served 4 years as Military Policeman in the USMC never making more than 30k a year. I didn't get every holiday off work or a summer break. I didn't go to work at 7 and go home each day at 3. I also didn't complain about it. I knew the deal when signed the dotted line. These teachers should be ashamed of the example they are setting for our youth.

    After my Marine Corps service was fulfilled, I went back to college. I now have a degree and am working the field I choose. I still make less than a teacher, work holidays, and long hours in the summer, but I love what I do. That is the point

  • Terry Watts May 22, 2014
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    I'm not sure if you are intentionally lying or are just plain ignorant of the fact about teacher raises???

    Easley gave raises. And after halting raises due to the economic crisis, Perdue tried to give raises. In both instances they were met with resistance from the GOP members of the GA. Any simple Google Search for "easley teacher raises" or "perdue teacher raises" will get you all the info you want... Or, I can find the multitude of N&O and WRAL articles for you...

  • Deb Rodgers May 22, 2014
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    Where were the teachers when Easley and Perdue didn't give raises?

  • Objective Scientist May 21, 2014

    Several comments are from teacher, or spouses of teachers, who state how much they or their spouse really likes/loves teaching. I worked an huge range of jobs when "working my way through school" while earning 3 degrees. I also was a NC high school teacher/coach briefly after my college days. My observation of myself and co-workers suggests that there are some jobs that - even if you do not like the job - enable you to "muddle through" each day and do a minimally acceptable job. TEACHING IS NOT ONE OF THOSE! If you do not like those sugar-high elementary school age kids, or those misbehaving mischievous middle schoolers, or those "know it all", disrespectful high schoolers... and/or you simply do not like "teaching" at any level... you will not be able to muddle through the day, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade! Be very VERY thankful for teachers who truly like YOUR misbehaving, disrespectful kids and love teaching them!

  • Greg Boop May 21, 2014
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    The NCAE is NOT as union. By law, public employees in North Carolina can not unionize and do not have collective bargaining rights. By federal law, an organization must have collective bargaining rights to be called a union.

    The NCAE is an association.

  • SaveEnergyMan May 21, 2014

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    First, teachers work 10 months per year, not 9. How do they live the other 2 months of the year? They have to save or split that $46k over 12 months - so that's only $3,883/month. Now subtract 6% for the REQUIRED state retirement and it's $3,650 per month. That's a lot less than $5,000. Two teachers with two kids qualify for free/reduced lunch at school.

    Summer job? difficult to find for that short 2 month period. Besides, teachers have to take continuing education classes (at their own expense) over the summer to maintain their license.

    The disrespect for teachers and state employees is payback for supporting Democrats, plain and simple. Raises would happen, if the NCGA thought it a priority to support their voter base. Money was found for other GOP pet projects.

  • Lisa Smith May 21, 2014
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    I also went to Apex High and graduated almost 25 years ago. My senior English teacher? Betty Brown. She was an excellent teacher then, and I'd be willing to bet she's just as excellent now. As a matter of fact, I got into teaching because a different Apex High teacher, who is also still teaching, saw a potential in me that I didn't know existed.

  • jdurr81471 May 21, 2014

    That's really helpful. Really? Quit? I LIKE teaching. I am exhausted with the system, that doesn't invest in what I can do in the classroom and expects me to take handouts and crumbs and be grateful for anything I get. I am invested in my career. I have a masters degree and hours past that. I am invested in my fellow teachers; present and future, and in education. The system right now is broken for everyone, and "quit" is your answer. I'd like to say more, but my lunch break is over.

  • Doug Pawlak May 21, 2014
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    Somebody needs to tell all of the private sector employers then that they should stop giving out raises because that's exactly what they've been doing...according to actual evidence such as Bureau of Labor statistics and employer surveys.