Pay raise not enough to keep some teachers in classroom

Posted August 29, 2014 6:38 p.m. EDT

— Despite the pay raises for teachers included in the new state budget, some veteran teachers say they are fed up with the growing demands of the job and what they see as a lack of respect from state leaders, and they are walking away from the classroom.

Barbara Hawley taught school for 15 years before resigning two weeks ago from her job as a second-grade teacher at Pleasant Union Elementary School in northern Wake County. She said years of eroding respect in her profession had finally worn her down.

"It's been a long and frustrating road," Hawley said Friday. "Public schools are not being supported financially."

Years of tight budgets have cut support services to the bone, she said, putting more responsibilities on teachers' shoulders. A growing number of classroom assessments also added to her workload, she said.

"The reality is we work 7 (a.m.) to 6 (p.m.) and take work home," she said.

"The messages are, 'You need to do more. You need to do more with less because that's the way it is. Just buckle down and do it.' Well, I've been buckling down for a long time now, and my buckles are tight and they're hurting," she continued. "I think I have a lot to give. I think I had a lot more to give had I not been completely crushed by all that's being passed down to us."

In addition, Hawley said she and other veteran teachers feel insulted by the raises, which were skewed to benefit starting teachers more than long-time educators.

"They haven't done anything wonderful," she said of lawmakers. "I'm sorry, but that's the way it is."

Hawley made about $45,000 a year as a teacher. She's moving to an administrative assistant and accounting job that pays about the same.

"I'm done teaching. I'm completely done," she said.

She left six weeks into the year-round school year, upsetting some parents. She wrote a lengthy letter to them to explain her decision, while telling her students that she had an opportunity to work closer to her husband and spend more time with her family."

"That's not easy," she said about walking away from her students, but she added that she doesn't see job conditions for teachers in North Carolina improving in the near future.

"It's not getting better. It's getting worse," she said.

Pleasant Union Elementary Principal Kevin Biles said he is disappointed by Hawley's decision but is empathetic.

"There's a strong possibility people will be considering other professions," Biles said when asked if he expected other teachers to leave as well. "For people to continue to come into this profession, they're going to have to improve not only salaries, but the per-pupil expenditures."