Stuart Egan, a teacher in Clemmons, North Carolina, wrote to tell me that teachers who have been teaching 33 years or more received a pay cut under the new state budget. One friend took an annual cut of $4866.35.
Stuart added the following letter:
The following Facebook posting is from a teacher in Cleveland County. Its contents are not that surprising, especially if you have been aware of the North Carolina General Assembly’s actions concerning public schools. It is yet another example of how many in the North Carolina General Assembly view public educators. This only reaffirms Peter Greene’s observation that the North Carolina General Assembly is the most egregious state legislature when it comes to supporting public schools.
Julia Clore-Laurich, a veteran teacher, posts:
I am not an “idiot teacher” for calling State Representative Tim Moore’s office on Wednesday afternoon to voice my concerns about the current budget that is being proposed, yet that was what I was called after the conversation was over and Legislative Assistant Nancy Garriss didn’t realize she had not hung up. Speaking to another staff person, she told him that “some idiot teacher” had called that and that I made her “blood boil.” About that time, someone realized the phone had not been hung up and proceeded to disconnect the line. Of course, I called back immediately. When she answered and I reintroduced myself, she asked if she could put me on hold; I reluctantly agreed. Shortly, a male staffer answered the call and said that Nancy had gone to a meeting. I also got a legal staffer on this call. They apologized, listened politely to what I had to say, offered to have Nancy call to apologize (which I declined), and got my email address.
Having taught for 18 years, I am smart enough to know that the 7% raise that is currently being debated is not 7% for everyone; for step 19, it means 3.31% according to Nancy. I wanted to get on the record and voice my opposition to losing longevity pay. Teachers should not have to give up longevity pay, and I should not have to be grateful to receive a small portion of one of the largest teacher raises in the state’s history that will be funded by giving up what I have already earned. The “wonderful” 7% raise that is being talked about is not so wonderful for the teachers who have put in years of service to the community for the education of young people.
If exercising my right as a citizen to argue that I should not have to give up longevity pay in return for a small portion of the raise that is being debated gets me called an “idiot teacher” by the Legislative Assistant in my North Carolina State Representative’s office, then it is no wonder teachers are being devalued by our State Government.
I have sent the following letter to Ms. Garriss and also copied her employer, Rep. Tim Moore.
Dear Ms. Garriss,
I received a Facebook posting that highlighted an exchange you had with a veteran teacher from Cleveland County. I am troubled by what seems to be a cavalier attitude on your part and I want to say a few words. But more importantly, I want to present myself as a fellow state servant, one who wants to improve conditions in North Carolina.
Like Ms. Clore-Laurich and the thousands of veteran teachers in our state, I am directly affected by such actions as the removal of longevity pay, the disproportional rearrangement of the salary schedule and the elimination of increased pay for advanced degrees. This could be most devastating for the region (Cleveland County) that Rep. Moore represents.
Cleveland County sits on the border with South Carolina, which is successfully recruiting teachers from North Carolina with higher pay and better teaching conditions. Other out-of-state systems (Houston is notable) also are recruiting actively here. Bumper stickers are starting to appear around the state that parody North Carolina’s iconic automobile license plates. Instead of just saying “First in Flight,” they read “First in Teacher Flight.”
Possibly Ms. Clore-Laurich was relating to her elected official that she is concerned with keeping qualified, experienced teachers in her school district because they are crucial to sustaining quality education in Cleveland County. The “7%” raise for teachers being touted by the General Assembly is really a weak and misleading way of saying that public education is being cut into again. With the Teaching Fellow Program eliminated, teacher career status attacked and the measuring of teacher effectiveness with untested means, it is no wonder many veteran teachers are speaking out. They need to be heard. The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system I serve will have to deal with a $4 million shortfall that most likely will affect the hiring of teacher assistants. I have a son who has Down Syndrome and will enter first grade. Having teacher assistants is not a luxury in his classroom; it is vital.
A majority of the money in this so-called raise will be given to newer teachers with the short-term goal that they will start a career in North Carolina. However, the General Assembly refuses to see that the long-term outcome of this is that few teachers will end their careers in North Carolina.
Longevity is now eliminated and then given back to experienced teachers in the form of a raise. It is not an actual raise; it’s a reallocation of money that we teachers have already earned. Think of it this way: someone goes into your savings account and withdraws $10,000 and then hands it to you and says you got a bonus. And all state employees get longevity pay, possibly you as well. But now, teachers will not. It is being used to finance this “raise.”
The new salary schedule simply puts into place the actual numbers promised in the old salary schedule from 2007, but it does not consider inflation and cost-of-living increases. You should read James Hogan’s recent post on this matter. It can be found at http://www.forum.jamesdhogan.com/2014/07/the-pay-scale-no-politician-wants-you.html. Mr. Hogan is a very lucid, straightforward thinker and explains this very well.
The elimination of advanced degree pay is another item of concern. Advanced degrees have been the only means for teachers to get some sort of monetary promotion in the profession of education. Please remember that a profession, such as the fields of law, medicine and education, require licensure; however, our General Assembly apparently does not think educators deserve the same treatment as doctors and lawyers. Take Rep. Moore for example. He is an attorney, which means that he probably has a Juris Doctorate. But what if he was in business law and also possessed an MBA? Would he be able to command more recompense for his knowledge? Yes he would. Why should the field of education be any different?
There are other ramifications of this budget that invite many more questions and concerns. How does this affect teacher pension plans in the future? What about the message this sends to our post-secondary schools that train our teacher candidates? Why is more money going to fund “Opportunity Grants” when that money was already tagged for public education?
But the most obvious concern is keeping qualified, seasoned veterans in our classrooms to teach our kids and to mentor fabulous new teachers to become seasoned educators. And a border county like Cleveland County cannot afford to lose teachers, unless the goal is to always have your students taught by inexperienced teachers who plan to finish their careers elsewhere. Is that really the intent of Rep. Moore, a six-time incumbent seeking reelection this November?
All of this negative talk about public schools and teacher salaries is enough to make my “blood boil” as well. But I have no problem being called an “idiot teacher” if it means trying to speak up for public schools in North Carolina. I will gladly wear that label if it helps our students.
Stuart Egan, Ed.S., NBCT
West Forsyth High School