Hundreds of teachers turn out for Houston schools job fair
Posted May 31
Raleigh, N.C. — Responding to a newspaper classified ad that cited starting salaries of $46,805, hundreds of teachers packed into Raleigh's Doubletree Brownstone Hotel Saturday morning to attend a job fair sponsored by the Houston Independent School District.
Officials from the district, which is the largest in Texas, published the ad earlier in the week hoping to poach educators from North Carolina, where low teacher pay has become a growing concern among educators and state leaders.
Houston Superintendent Terry Grier is the former superintendent of Guilford County Schools and is well-acquainted with the long-running debate over North Carolina teacher salaries, which rank 46th nationwide.
Starting pay for teachers in Wake County is less than what Houston officials promoted in their ad. With supplements, beginning teachers can earn about $35,000.
The cost of living in Houston is also higher than Raleigh, according to figures compiled by Numbeo, a user-fed database about cities and countries worldwide. Rent prices are 32 percent lower in Raleigh, according to the website.
Luke Arno, an aspiring music teacher, was one of the 300 educators who packed Saturday's job fair.
"I would love to stay in North Carolina, but I am looking at all my options," Arno, who just earned a master's degree, said.
Christine Kushner, the chairwoman of the Wake County Board of Education, said Saturday's job fair and rally are another example of how out-of-state competition can be a threat to North Carolina's schools.
"I think it serves as further evidence that we really need state and local action on teachers' salaries," she said.
The Wake County Public School System already needs to fill about 1,500 teaching positions for 2014-15, officials said earlier in the week.
Marilyn Rodriguez was one of dozens who rallied outside Saturday's job fair to call for better pay designed at keeping North Carolina's teachers in the state. Rodriguez said she recently quit her job as a high school Spanish teacher in Durham.
"I am making $10,000 less than I was my first year teaching in Maryland," she said.
Logan Smith, who also attended AimHigher NC's rally outside the job fair, said children are suffering because of teacher pay in the state.
"Who can blame underpaid and underappreciated educators looking for more respect and better pay," he said in a news release. "North Carolina lawmakers have let down our teachers, and they've let down our children."
The North Carolina Senate budget, which was approved in a vote early Saturday morning, sets aside $468 million to give teachers an average $5,800 salary increase, but those accepting the money would lose their career status rights, which is commonly referred to as tenure.
To pay for the raises, the budget slashes funding for teaching assistants in early grades by half.
The school board requested an extra $39 million from Wake County for the coming year to provide a 3.5 percent raise for all teachers and school staff, but Wake County Manager Jim Hartmann didn't include any money for raises in his proposed budget. He said he wants to see how state lawmakers address the issue of teacher salaries before the county makes any financial commitment.
Gov. Pat McCrory has included an average 2 percent increase for most teachers in his 2014-15 budget proposal.