Local News

Hundreds of teachers turn out for Houston schools job fair

Posted May 31, 2014

— 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.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • juliomercado Jun 4, 2014

    View quoted thread

    There is absolute evidence teachers are being poached all across the state thanks to an unprecedented turnover rate last year. TODAY there are over 1500 teaching openings in the state. That number will increase during the early summer. Folks you can wiggle and squirm all you want, the fact remains teachers are leaving. I know of 5 that are leaving the profession entirely this year. The senate budget was nothing but an additional insult and the governor's recommendation a case of 'too little too late'. Fact is NC will end up spending hundreds of millions undoing the damage done and those of you blasting Houston and suggesting teachers aren't leaving in droves will only complicate the issue more. Stay tuned for 20% turnover THIS YEAR. That only affects about a million students statewide.

  • Pensive01 Jun 2, 2014

    View quoted thread

    You do realize that for an interview to be taken, the reporter must first ask and the answer is not going to always be yes. Secondly the people who were interviewed were all outside of the hotel, in which the job fair was being held. You also seemed to not consider that the job fair, which was being held in a private business, might not have wanted a bunch of reporters attempting to interview everyone who showed up to attend. I should point out that it wasn't a public event, which I know because out of curiosity I went to the website for the Houston Independent School District and found that anyone who wanted to attend the job fair had to register beforehand. Either case could explain why more teachers were not interviewed.

  • Greg Boop Jun 2, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    So what there are a total of 24 "right-to-work" states including North Carolina. Basically right to work means that you cannot be forced to join a union. North Carolina goes one step beyond this - in our state public employees (e.g. teachers) can not belong to a union. in Texas teachers are allowed to voluntarily join a union, and over 99% of them do.

    "Right-to-work" has nothing to do with K-12 tenure laws. Tenure (aka career status) simply means that a K-12 teacher is entitled to due process via a hearing before they are fired to ensure they were not fired for political reasons. North Carolina instituted this law over 40 years ago when it was found that teachers were being hired and fired due to political patronage, and being fired for teaching things like evolution in the classroom.

  • Bubba Jim Jun 2, 2014
    user avatar

    Be very careful before leaving NC for Texas. I just came back from Austin/San Antonio where locals warned me about Mexican gangs. Check the crime stats before you go.

  • Pensive01 Jun 2, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Just to reinforce your point here is an excerpt from the website for the Texas Attorney General, that addresses right to work under the laws of Texas.
    Right-to-Work Laws in Texas
    Texas is a right-to-work state. This means that under the Texas Labor Code, a person cannot be denied employment because of membership or non-membership in a labor union or other labor organization. Tex. Labor Code Ann. §§ 101.001, et al.
    The site actually goes into quite a bit of detail, which anyone can read at the following link.

  • Edward Levy Jun 2, 2014
    user avatar

    iNTERESTING to note the difference in cost of living in Houston to Raleigh area. So are we talking APPLES & APPLES. Compare NY & NJ salaries to NC a blowout, but compare COL in those 2 states to us, crazy! My property tax for a much smaller home was $9k in NJ to $1150 here in a new larger home, larger land, auto ins 1/3, homeowners 1/4 and so on. How many got jobs at the fair?

  • carpe Jun 2, 2014

    An NC teacher w/ their NBPTS Cert and 5 years experiance earns $34,500. A Houston teacher w/ 5 years earns $46,871.

    The difference close to 27% higher pay in Houston, with a 32% higher cost of living.

    Higher pay sure makes sense in Houston doesn't it?

  • glarg Jun 2, 2014

    View quoted thread

    I hope you arent a teacher because I have to add up 2 plus 2 for you.

    Its not a 'conspur'cy' as you strawmanificate.
    If an editor send a reporter down to cover the story of "our teachers being poached by the hundreds by Houston" the fist thing the reporter does is start interviewing teachers. And yet there are no interviews with teachers! Did the reporter blow off the assignment and go get a frapaccino? Or out of the hundreds of people there they couldnt find an actual teacher to back up this story line?

    The N&O managed to interview just one teacher, who was in his first year and from Durham. The main focus of this reporting assignment is the "hundreds of teachers" being poached, and yet despite two reports working a crowd of 350 people they can dig up a single Wake teacher at this event.

    There is ZERO evidence that experienced NC teachers are being poached at this event.

  • Smilester Jun 2, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Its the 4th largest city in America?

  • Smilester Jun 2, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Houston is also the 4th largest city in the USA. That could explain the high number.