Raleigh, N.C. — Teacher turnover in North Carolina declined last year for the first time in five years, but a state Department of Public Instruction report shows an increasing percentage of teachers moving to other states or changing careers.
The overall turnover rate in 2013-14 was 14.12 percent, down slightly from 14.33 percent in 2012-13 but still much higher than in the three previous years. About 2.6 percent of teachers statewide left their jobs in 2013-14 for personal reasons, such as dissatisfaction with teaching or a better job outside of North Carolina, up from 2.2 percent a year earlier.
Many of those leaving are veteran educators who were given short shrift in pay raises handed out last year by state lawmakers.
"I've been teaching 35 years, and my increase was 0.3 percent," said Rich Nixon, a history teacher at Corinth Holders High School in Wendell. "In exchange for my service, that's what I got."
Nixon is one of several teachers suing state lawmakers for trying to eliminate their tenure rights. A judge ruled in the teachers' favor, but the case is on appeal.
Between the potential loss of tenure, the end of the longevity bonuses longtime teachers received until lawmakers rolled them into their pay last year and the lack of a decent raise, Nixon said veteran teachers are eyeing the exits.
"I hear a lot of people who are frustrated," he said. "Kind of a simmering anger."
House Senior Budget Chairman Nelson Dollar said the raises included in last year's state budget were aimed at five- to 10-year teachers because that's where the greatest attrition was.
"We've been investing in their education – we've had them in our system, they've been teaching in our schools – and then once they get that experience, we've been losing them to the marketplace," said Dollar, R-Wake.
Lawmakers are planning another raise for beginning teachers this year, and Dollar said there might not be enough money in the budget to give veteran teachers raises as well.
"We will look at all of these requests and weigh them and make some appropriate decisions," he said.
If lawmakers want to keep beginning teachers on the job, Nixon said, they need to keep their veteran mentors, too.
"What profession does not value experienced members?" he said. "Across the board, you want people who are experienced because there are things that people gain from experience and knowledge, and they work with younger teachers and they share this knowledge."