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Apex teachers speak out about dwindling morale, pay

About 60 teachers from Apex High School rallied outside their school Wednesday morning to speak out about compensation and dwindling teacher morale.

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APEX, N.C. — About 60 teachers from Apex High School rallied outside their school Wednesday morning to speak out about compensation and dwindling teacher morale.

Greg Thomas, one of the teachers participating in Wednesday's rally, said educators want the public to know how they feel about the state's education system.

"Our superintendent and school board has done a lot for us, but we felt like we needed to get out and let the public know that our teachers are very concerned about our future and what is going in education," Thomas said.

Salaries for the state's teachers are among the lowest in the country. Educators have received one across-the-board pay raise since 2008 – a 1.2 percent bump in 2013 – as lawmakers coped with pinched state revenues or shifted money to other priorities.

Gov. Pat McCrory unveiled a plan two weeks ago that would give all teachers an average 2 percent pay raise this year. That is on top of a plan he and legislative leaders announced to raise the base pay for starting teachers.

Betty Brown, a teacher for 36 years, said Wednesday that she thinks there is a "general lack of respect" toward teachers, "primarily from the General Assembly." Brown also said she's doubtful about teachers getting a pay increase in 2014. 

"We won't get a raise. The talk is good, but talk is cheap and it's been a long time since the General Assembly has really, truly supported pay raises," she said. "They talk about pay raises, but as far enacting them, no."

In the last several months, teachers across the state have also been outspoken about how compensation is impacting teacher turnover numbers.

The annual teacher turnover report to the State Board of Education said that 13,616 teachers left their jobs in 2012-13, primarily to teach somewhere else.

The statewide rate of 14 percent of teachers leaving their jobs was an increase from the previous year's turnover of 12 percent and 11 percent in 2010-11. Increasingly, the teachers leaving have worked long enough to earn job security, called tenure. About half the teachers quitting last year had tenure, a percentage that has risen each year from 35 percent in 2008-2009.

About 7 percent of those leaving last year blamed it on a decision to change careers or because they were dissatisfied with teaching, about the same as the previous year.

Thomas said teacher pay is the key first step to fixing teacher morale and keeping teachers in the state.

"That start will be better pay. We think that the teachers are leaving because of pay and other things that have been done, taking away master's pay, the tenure issue," Thomas said. "We're afraid all of the teachers leaving the profession is going to destroy the education system."

Brown said Wednesday's protest was about much more than compensation. 

"We should be paid for advanced degrees, and this new bill that got rid of pay for master's degrees, it's ridiculous," she said. "Teachers should also be given time for staff development. There should be fewer demands placed on us each year if there is not going to be equal attempts to give us time to implement these policies."


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