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Hundreds of teachers turn out for Houston schools job fair

Posted May 31, 2014

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— 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.


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  • Tom Boswell Jun 2, 2014
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    Houston you have a problem. Should have been here two years ago when our fine Governor Purdue let teachers pay drop to 47th right before she left office. Should have been here in 2012 when the previous ten years according to the NEA's web site Democrats granted the absolute lowest cumulative ten year raises in the country. They should have been here in 2010 when a Democratic Governor and General Assembly for three years granted zero/nada raises. They come now when McCrory is proposing an 11% raise which is more than Democrats with full control of the state granted combined the six years from 2004-2010.

  • jackaroe123 Jun 2, 2014

    View quoted thread

    You're leaving a lot out...

  • greg69innc Jun 2, 2014

    Better late than never and I would not blame anyone for leaving NC going to another state in hopes of better themselves

  • anti-Hans Jun 2, 2014

    Ironically - this is the independent district, and one of the aspects required is this is a right to work association. In other words, no tenure or security. Seems that is one of the hang-ups with the raises being discussed now. The teachers dont want to give that up - so how is this any different?

  • JAT Jun 2, 2014

    the one teacher shown on TV who said "if they'll give me my 10 years, yeah, we can talk" is exactly the kind of teacher I don't want teaching my kid. Please go to Texas!

    If these teachers truly want more money, and remember, they all tell us that they aren't in it for the money, they want to teach kids, then pack up and move. Will the extra few thousand be worth selling your house, buying another one, paying to move your stuff half way across the county, leaving your friends and family, teaching in a troubled school district with kids who can't speak English, etc.? Will it? If so, then move. No one will blame you. Otherwise, stop your whining and do your job. That job that, for more teachers, will let you have the summer off in about 5 days.

  • Paul Donovan Jun 2, 2014
    user avatar

    Only problem is you have to live in the Houston area. If you think crime is bad here you haven't seen anything yet. Let alone the oppressive heat there in the summer months and non stop cloudiness and rain in the winter. Oh and to top it off you have the oil refineries that like to catch fire occasionally and cover the area in smoke. You will be back.

  • darkhorse94 Jun 2, 2014

    Houston also has 3x the crime rate of Raleigh. The crime index in Houston is 5% (Safer than 5% of the cities in the US) Raleigh is 16.

  • darkhorse94 Jun 2, 2014

    Houston also has 3x the crime rate of Raleigh. The crime index in Houston is 5% (Safer than 5% of the cities in the US) Raleigh is 16.

  • Greg Boop Jun 2, 2014
    user avatar

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    Florida is the only state to eliminate teacher tenure protection. The teachers in Houston have tenure protection under Texas state law.

    For K-12 teachers in most states, tenure (aka "career status") simply means that you are entitled to a hearing before you are terminated to ensure that you were not fired for political purposes (for example - teaching evolution in a biology class). It does not protect teachers from being fired for poor performance.

  • jackaroe123 Jun 2, 2014

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    I can't attest to the accuracy of what you're saying about that district, and considering the misinformation out there about what tenure actually is, I'm more uncertain, but if you're right, my first guess is that it has to do w/ what teachers signed up for on day 1. Teachers don't expect to get rich, but the deal most of us signed included regular, modest raises, incentive to further our education, and tenure. Some of us may have been willing to teach w/o some of those things, but taking them away after the fact is breaking the deal. For many of us, that is a sign of disrespect and dishonesty.