Teachers ask lawmakers to 'restore respect'

Posted May 3, 2016

— The state's largest teachers' association marked National Teacher's Day on Tuesday by calling on Republican legislative leaders to "restore respect" for their profession.

The list of changes sought by the North Carolina Association of Educators included both budget and policy items, including making changes to the way the state grades schools on an A through F scale, restoring longevity pay and extra pay for a master's degree and restoring the potential for career status rights for teachers who had not yet earned them when state lawmakers eliminated them in 2013.

NCAE President Rodney Ellis said North Carolina's teacher turnover rate is the highest it's been in the last 15 years, while enrollment in teacher training programs is down by 30 percent.

"We are no longer a teacher destination state," Ellis said.

Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, is a teacher. He said one of his students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Education told him last semester she wanted to be a teacher until she returned to her old high school for a visit.

"Her own teachers have told her, 'Don’t do it,'" Meyer said. "How did we get to a place where our own teachers feel so battered that they’re discouraging young students from moving forward into the profession?"

"It is an issue of teacher pay, but it’s more than that," explained Todd Warren, an elementary school Spanish teacher from Greensboro. "It’s about conditions that we’re facing in the classroom. We’re continuously being asked to do more with less."

Dwindling funding has left teachers footing the bill for "crayons, pencils, paper, Kleenex, toilet tissue in some cases. We’re not talking about high technology items to launch us here into the 21st century. We’re talking about basics," Warren said. "A lot of society’s problems are being left at the doorstep of the school, and as teachers, we’re stepping up to bear that burden – and we’re feeling almost no support from our North Carolina General Assembly."

NCAE is asking lawmakers to raise both teacher pay and per-pupil funding to the national average and commit to keep them there.

"North Carolina is 46th in per-pupil spending and has a textbook and educational resource fund that is still well below pre-recession levels. In addition, North Carolina ranks 42nd in average teacher pay," Ellis said. "If some of our basketball teams were ranked 42nd and 46th in the country, a state of emergency would be declared."

None of the budget proposals currently under consideration would get either line item anywhere near the national average. Even the governor's proposal for an average 5 percent increase would raise the state's teacher pay ranking to only 32nd. Republican Senate leaders have signaled that even 5 percent is unlikely to happen this year, saying they'd like to include raises for other state employees as well.

While Republican legislative leaders are quick to point out that they have increased spending on education every year, those increases have, by and large, only kept pace with the state's growing enrollment numbers.

Asked how the state would pay for such a large spending increase, Ellis said that would be up to lawmakers, but he added that they could find the money if they want to.

"This is about priorities. It’s about whether our elected leaders are going to invest the surplus budget in education and our students or continue to give more tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy," Ellis said.


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  • Matt Nickeson May 4, 2016
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    I think that one thing that is missed in all of this is that there is no competition for teachers. By that I mean that if you are a good teacher there is no on headhunting you to come to a different school for more pay. This is how the private sector works but it is completely absent in the school systems. I suppose that is something that you give up in order to have job security. ALways trade-offs.

  • Matt Nickeson May 4, 2016
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    I agree except for the value of advanced degrees. Numerous studies have shown little correlation between teachers with advanced degrees and improved student outcomes. There really isn't much reason to pay for something that doesn't add value. That's not to say that teachers should be paid more and respected as a professional occupation. Just that I don't think advanced degrees are the metric that should be used to determine a portion of compensation.

  • William James May 4, 2016
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    Teachers need more leverage, the only state employees in NC who have ever received a significant pay increase were in high demand occupations the state had no other choice. Nurses, doctors, computer analysts, and the like quit often to better paying jobs locally. But, teachers can't, they would have to uproot and move to another state leaving them with little or no leverage other than protesting, which hasn't worked so far.

  • Roger Way May 4, 2016
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    As an outsider looking in, I can see that this is about much more than morality and money. Wake has 157,180 students in 171 schools with 10,200 teachers. 53, 687 students are on the Free/Reduced Lunch program, 11,848 are in Limited English Proficiency classes, and 20,880 are in Special Education classes. Wake County is the 17th largest school district in the country. Buildings, Support Staff, Buses - it all costs money.

    47% of the 10,200 Wake teachers have advanced degrees, yet are receiving less than professional pay. Many of our best teachers are seeking careers outside of the schools.

    But, it is more than money. Teachers are forced to keep disruptive students in classes for the sake of government padded stats. Discipline and respect for these professionals is at an all time low. Teachers are being assaulted, threatened, and driven into depression through cut budgets, political correctness BS, parental bullying, and weak administrative support.

    Our teachers deserve better.

  • Matt Nickeson May 4, 2016
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    I wish these teacher's organizations would address other issues than just pay. Pay should be discussed but it seems as though that is all they care about. What about all the other issues surrounding public education? There are also many more issues other than pay that negatively affect teacher retention.

  • Hessian Diesel May 4, 2016
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    Teachers ask lawmakers to legislate morality...seems legit.

  • Demute Sainte May 3, 2016
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    Just more and more money.... as if $1.5 BILLION dollars a year for Wake County is not enough.