Cumberland County, N.C. — The letter from Peggy Raymes, principal at Margaret Willis Elementary School in Cumberland County, to Gov. Pat McCrory ends with a question.
“Do we give 37 percent pay increases to young men who worked for your campaign, or do we pay the teachers in North Carolina a fair wage?”
Raymes penned the letter in reaction to recent headlines about hefty raises given to young staffers who worked on McCrory’s campaign and were subsequently hired by the administration. When she posted her open letter to McCrory on NC Policy Watch – a website maintained by the progressive, nonprofit North Carolina Justice Center – she didn't expect it to be picked up and reposted many times over.
“I thought the letter was outstanding. It made me feel wonderful to know my boss had my back,” teacher Erick McLaurin said.
Raymes said she was moved to write the letter after hearing about the high-dollar raises, including a 24-year-old policy planner who received a $22,500 raise and a 24-year-old public relations officer who got a $23,000 raise
Under the state’s budget signed into law by McCrory last month, North Carolina’s teachers received no raises.
“I just felt Gov. McCrory needed to know that in addition to these two young men, there were people every day who were doing outstanding things in their field and not being recognized in that manner,” Raymes said.
The 30-year educator points to the fact many teachers work off-hours for free, attending training sessions and working with families. She worries little or no raises are pushing too many out the door.
“People need to feel valued, but right now the message from our legislators and our governor is that public education is not valued,” Raymes said.
When asked about her letter, the governor’s office issued a statement: "I'm doing all that I can for our teachers. My proposed budget had a raise for teachers, but because of Medicaid overruns to the tune of approximately $500 million, we couldn't make it happen this year."
Raymes thinks if the governor and legislators would spend one day in a classroom, they might understand the frustration felt by educators.
“I’m extremely discouraged,” she said.