Vol.#28: The Blame Game

Edit 6/9/13: Updates and corrections to this blog post on this week’s post here.

Attention: Rant about the current critical period for the teachers in my state of North Carolina forthcoming. You’ve been warned.

priorities

When I arrived from South Carolina in 2002, North Carolina was 21st in teacher pay. Sadly, we are now 48th. Forty-eighth. The “Thank goodness for Mississippi” joke is wearing thin. Especially when we can no longer say “Thank goodness for South Carolina.” or “Thank goodness for West Virginia.” They both now outrank us in teachers’ salaries.

This Tuesday, the NC House it supposed to vote on the Senate’s budget, which puts education in this state in very dire straits indeed. And if you’re not outraged, and alarmed at the sneaky, underhanded dealings, you’re not paying attention.

Teacher pay in North Carolina has been frozen for five years. In 2008-2009 a teacher with five years’ experience had a base salary of $35,380. Today, that teacher earns $31,220. However, this proposed budget would also stop paying teachers for advanced degrees and National Board Certification. I am going to illustrate this by making it very personal – because it is very personal. To every teacher in this state.

  • In 2005-2006, I had 6 years teaching experience and a master’s degree, and National Board Certification. I made $40,300.
  • In 2008-2009, I had 9 years experience, a master’s degree, and National Board Certification. I made $47,660.
  • 2010-2011: $47,660
  • 2011-2012:  $47,660.
  • This Year: $47,620 (Anyone catch the slight pay cut?)
  • Should this budget pass? I’ll make $39,650.

Let me save you the trouble of the math. It’s $766.66 less every single month.  At 14 years of experience, they would ask me to revert to my salary from almost a decade ago.

Let me be very clear to any of the General Assembly who may happen to read this: 

education-budget-cuts-web-1-23-11
Image Credit: http://www.branchtoon.com

You have talked about needing to cut these mysterious “bloated budgets”. Please rest assured: You have cut the fat, slashed the muscle, and sawed through the bone. Increasing class size for kindergarten through third grade AND cutting teacher assistants at the elementary school level? Have you ever managed a classroom of 25+ kindergarteners? Or third graders?

Please come try it. I beg you.

You don’t seem to think this will matter.

You seem to think teachers will just keep accepting this treatment.

You don’t seem to believe $766.66 a month on a teacher’s salary will be a deal breaker for highly dedicated educators like myself.

You say insulting things, like: “We haven’t seen any evidence that freezing teacher pay has had any negative consequences on student performance.” (~Terry Stoops)

You don’t seem to realize the simple truth that teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. 

And I’m telling you. You’re going to eat all those words. Enough.

Just…   Enough.

Unless, of course, this is your goal? Shake enough experienced teachers loose and replace with less-expensive new teachers? After all, both Arne Duncan and Bill Gates have told you that teacher experience doesn’t really matter.

When in fact, research consistently indicates it is the teacher – more than resources, student population, and yes even class size, that makes the difference in the success in the classroom. The teacher.

One might mistakenly think this would mean that you, the powers that be, would realize the importance of investing in quality teachers. Making sure we have access to things like excellent professional development. (NCCAT is also on the chopping block, and as other educators can better explain better than I, it’s also a mistake.) Perhaps, as South Carolina did for me, even *gasp* actually pay for our professional development to further our expertise. No, instead, you apparently have opted to devalue it completely. North Carolina is sending the clear message to master teachers who have spent their time, effort, and our own money to improve that we are not wanted here.

Rest assured, should this budget pass, that we will hear that message loud and clear.

I’ve noticed that all that the “It’s the teacher that really matters” research has gotten us here in North Carolina is the blame. As you cut our pay and increase our class size, you tout this evidence when it suits you, saying class size doesn’t matter to student achievement, for example.

However, you lay all things wrong with education firmly at the feet of the teacher. After all, we’re the ones that matter, right?

“So what if we’ve frozen their salary repeatedly and stopped all funding for ways for educators to improve? Johnny bubbled B instead of C?

Quick. Remove some more support.

That’ll show’em.”

Author’s Note: Many are planning to exercise their first amendment rights about this proposed budget at the state capital tomorrow, Monday, June 3rd at 5 pm at the Centennial Mall (between the Museum of History and Natural Sciences).

House Subcommittee on Education Appropriations

  Name Email Phone
Chairman Rep. Hugh Blackwell Hugh.Blackwell@ncleg.net 919-733-5805
Chairman Rep. Craig Horn Craig.Horn@ncleg.net 919-733-2406
Chairman Rep. Chuck McGrady Chuck.McGrady@ncleg.net 919-733-5956
Vice Chairman Rep. Rob Bryan Rob.Bryan@ncleg.net 919-733-5607
Vice Chairman Rep. Chris Whitmire Chris.Whitmire@ncleg.net 919-715-4466
Member Rep. Larry Bell Larry.Bell@ncleg.net 919-733-5863
Member Rep. Brian Brown Brian.Brown@ncleg.net 919-733-5757
Member Rep. Debra Conrad Debra.Conrad@ncleg.net 919-733-5787
Member Rep. Jeffrey Elmore Jeffrey.Elmore@ncleg.net 919-733-5935
Member Rep. Rosa U. Gill Rosa.Gill@ncleg.net 919-733-5880
Member Rep. Rick Glazier Rick.Glazier@ncleg.net 919-733-5601
Member Rep. Ken Goodman Ken.Goodman@ncleg.net 919-733-5823
Member Rep. Marvin W. Lucas Marvin.Lucas@ncleg.net 919-733-5775
Member Rep. Chris Malone Chris.Malone@ncleg.net 919-715-3010
Member Rep. Henry M. Michaux Jr. Mickey.Michaux@ncleg.net 919-715-2528
Member Rep. Paul Stam Paul.Stam@ncleg.net 919-733-2962
Member Rep. Bob Steinburg Bob.Steinburg@ncleg.net 919-733-0010

Click here to visit the House Subcommittee on Education Appropriations webpage.

If you haven’t had a chance to sign the Change.org petition in support of NCCAT, please do so by clicking the link. Thank you!

/rant

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65 thoughts on “Vol.#28: The Blame Game”

  1. I’ve been writing my reps and signing petitions and the whole thing makes me ill. You’re absolutely right – these cuts will edge many teachers out. I know too many teachers who work part time just to make ends meet with their current salaries. With further cuts – they’ll keep teaching, but only half-heartedly, while they look for employment that pays the bills.

    It’s been the case for too long – raise the bar on teachers while jerking away the supports. “We want our teachers to be up on the latest in education,” while at the same time cutting North Carolina Teacher Academy entirely – some of the best staff development to be had. NCCAT, a true gem in NC, seems to exist on the edge of a cliff. NC has me frustrated, to put it mildly.

    Here’s the real question – how will NC attract strong teachers? Eliminating the Teaching Fellows scholarship hurt recruiting from promising, bright high school students interested in education as a career. Salaries? Working conditions? The retirement plan? Class sizes? Supports? What do we have that will bring strong teachers to our state? If we’re in a crisis now, what happens in five years (or sooner) when we have to replace retired teachers or ones who have left for other states? Will we be able to fill teacher positions?

    Grrr.

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    1. Absolutely, Jason!

      We are not keeping pace with our neighboring states, who you can NOT tell me have a more lucrative tax base!

      NC vs neighboring states

      It’s also so short-sighted of them. I’m sure you’ve heard many times, like I, that our society can predict the number of prisions needed based on 4th grade reading scores. That for every dollar you spend in education, you will save $10 in ten years in the penitentiary system.

      It won’t even make any fiscal sense for North Carolina. To say nothing about how the students here won’t be competitive in a global job market.

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    2. I have been trying to get an email message to Mr. Blackwell and I can’t get the message through tonight. Guess I’ll try tomorrow. I thought about being more kind, polite, and politically correct, but decided to be more direct about my outrage. These committee people may be concerned about children and may be fine , decent folk to meet on a personal basis. -And in a day of so much political vitriol, I apologize for this rant. However, as one of my mentors used to say- “Dedicated incompetence is still incompetence!”
      here is my letter
      Dear Mr. Blackwell,
      I come to work between 5:00 and 6:30 AM every morning. I go home between 5:00 and 7:00 PM. I take some work home most nights. I spend about $1,000 a year of my own “sufficient” salary by your terms to supply my own “sufficient” classroom. I am neither lazy, incompetent, stupid, or disloyal to my county’s children. I am a teacher who can’t seem to get it all done. How dare you consider funding cuts to educate our children and blame teachers for short falls.
      If this doesn’t improve I will take a personal day on the next election day, organize some co-workers to stand quietly with sandwich signs about how YOUR particular work has impacted their own particular classrooms and lives, and stand outside every polling place where people might cast a vote for you as a testament to your indifference and incompetence as head of this committee. You do have some power, use it well or make way at the next election for someone who will.
      Sincerely,
      Connie Markham

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  2. Here is the letter I have sent to the committee. Thanks for the nudge to write them!

    “Dear Chairmen and Members of the NC General Assembly Appropriations Subcommittee on Education,

    As a voter and concerned citizen of North Carolina, I want to encourage you all to reconsider pending changes to the NC Budget that would decrease teacher salaries and further hurt the education of our state’s children.

    Instead, I encourage you to find ways to increase teacher salaries, fund continuing education for our teachers, make sure they have the supplies and materials they need, and encourage them to excel. In doing so, you are not only changing the teachers’ situation, you are changing the atmosphere and environment of our schools. In changing our schools, you are building up our state and preparing North Carolina for the future. It is about what is best for our children, and what is best for our children is best for all of us. Our workforce, our economy, and our State depend on it! We must think long term and make decisions that will not only help now, but help us for years to come, and supporting NC Teachers and Schools is something we can all do to help now and for generations to come!

    Teachers should be regarded much more highly than they are. They are in the classrooms day after day striving to give our state’s children the best education they can. It is a thankless and tireless job, and even the threat of further budget cuts undermines the very good work they are trying to do.

    I am hopeful that you are each spending significant time in the classrooms and schools in your districts. I also hope you are taking any opportunities to work along side our teachers in their classrooms, even for a day, to better understand the situation they face. As the elected representatives of our Great Sate, it is your responsibility to be talking with teachers, principals, and staff before you, and the committee as a whole, make any decisions. It is important you understand the implications of your decisions.

    My mother is a NC Public School teacher. I have many family and friends who teach, and I see the countless hours they put into their jobs, not only during the school day, but after school, on weekends, and over the summer. I also see the money they spend from their own pockets to give their students the best education they can. Increasing their salary is one step we can and should make to support their efforts for all of NC’s benefit!

    We must think long term and make decisions that will not only help now, but help us for years to come, and supporting NC Teachers and Schools is something we can all do to help now and for generations to come!

    Thank you!
    The Rev. Suzanne P. Miller”

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing that, Suzanne!

      It is very eloquent and powerfully written. What struck me the most is how, especially as one not personally in the public school setting, you captured the emotions of feeling devalued & defeated that many educators in North Carolina now share. These are not the emotions we want to project to our next generation in this state.

      I’m so glad you sent it, and I sincerely hope they listen to your wisdom.

      Many Thanks,

      Erica

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  3. I must be missing something on the pay cut. The salary now is $47,620 and the new salary with the cut would be $39,650. So, $47,620 – $39,650 = $7,970. Divide that by 12 months and you get $664.17. I am not sure where the $1,581 figure is coming from.

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    1. You make a really great point Phil, and I don’t know that I can satisfactorily explain how I managed to create that discrepancy.

      Under the 12-13 salary scale (here) they list the amount for 12 monthly installments, which I’d used because I teach at a year-round school, and we are paid the same salary as our traditional colleagues but over 12 months instead of 10, even though we are still 10 month employees.

      Thanks to your comment, I rechecked and have edited the amount. However, I didn’t come up with your number, either. Here’s what I got, I hope it makes sense:

      12 monthly installments for a teacher holding a BA with 14 years experience: $3,304.17

      12 monthly installments for a teacher holding a MA + NBC w/ 14 years experience: $4,070.83

      4014.33 – 3304.17 = $766.66

      766.66 x 12 = $9,199.92 in a year.

      Thanks very much for your comment. I will edit the post. Cheers!

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  4. While I agree that the law is absolutely ridiculous, you need to double check some facts. It is not going to affect National Board bonuses, just master’s and advanced degrees. And if you already have an advanced degree, like you do, you are not going to take a pay cut. The way the current bill reads, teachers who have their Master’s degrees by 2014 will be grandfathered into the higher pay scale. If people start writing to their senators and representatives, they’ll think that we as teachers really are stupid and don’t deserve more money. Let’s not give them additional ammo by sounding uneducated.

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    1. Only since this post have I heard anything about the “grandfathering in” of higher degrees, which while I would be personally grateful, feel this will certainly create inequity on any school staff. How could it not? It certainly will not have teachers lining up to come to North Carolina to teach.

      Besides your comment, I’ve not heard anything good about NBC pay and this bill. In fact, I just received an email today titled “National Board Pay for 2013-2014” that reminded me, “When you consider assignments for the 2013-2014 school year, please remember that state rules govern which positions accrue national board pay and which do not,” and that, “guidelines are based on legislation, and not WCPSS policy,” etc. I sincerely hope you are right and that these emails are just a formality. These types of advancements are the only way a teacher has to improve his/her station, as there is no “classroom corporate ladder.”

      As one of the above-listed Representatives wrote back to me,

      “The bigger issue is really that we’re just not paying teachers enough. Over the last few years in an effort to not layoff any teachers we’ve frozen teacher pay. I’m not sure why a person coming out of college would decide to become a teacher with no expectation of salary increases.”

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      1. What about those of us who have begun our Masters but will not finish before 2014? I have already taken a year’s worth of classes, but due to the fact I am teaching while getting my degree, I will not graduate until the spring of 2015…is that fair? I have already invested quite a sum of money that I can never hope to be reimbursed for! VA (where my fiancee lives/works) is sounding like a better option!!!

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        1. No, you’re exactly right. Nothing about this is fair! It will push dedicated educators like you who work to improve the craft of teaching away to other states or professions. As our experienced educators leave, there won’t be a strong teacher base to replace them. This will slowly drain the strength out of our schools. As one other commenter here said, that appears to be their goal. It makes me very sad for our future.

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    2. Even if the don’t pay teachers for their master’s and advanced degrees after 2014, you don’t think this will cause some inequity? I have wanted to work towards a master’s degree for a while now. Unfortunately, there have been things that have kept me from pursuing that degree. If this budget goes through, what incentive – other than getting it – is there? Why should I spend my money for no return on investment. I mean, that is why you get an advanced degree. You invest in it for a return. Usually that return is in some way, shape or form monetary. At least, in the business world it is. Apparently, our current legislature could care less about paying people furthering themselves.

      And giving us a 1% pay raise is a slap in the face. That amounts to about $30-40/month before any taxes. If a teacher is paying insurance for their family, they will most like see that 1% gone because of premium increases. We have bills, too. We have to buy groceries, clothing, electricity for our families, too. We have to pay gas to go to work, to play, transport our kids to school, too. Cost of living in this state has risen every year. Teachers have had to survive with less each year for the last 5 years. In fact, if you want to get it, North Carolina has BROKEN THEIR PROMISE WITH EVERY TEACHER by refusing to give them even their step pay increase.

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  5. If teaching is so hard to do, and the pay is so bad, why don’t teachers do something else.

    The country has something like twice as many qualified elementary teachers than they do jobs
    ( http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/02/18/oversupply-elementary-education/1917569/ )

    In the real world in any job where there is a surplus of people willing to work there will be lower wages. And the quality doesn’t suffer because people are afraid to lose their job to other qualified workers.

    Government school employees need to realize that the people who pay taxes to teacher salaries and benefits haven’t seen salary increases in even longer.

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    1. Teaching is extremely hard to do. And the pay is miserably bad.

      And most teachers wouldn’t want to do anything else.

      There’s a surplus of one type, a shortage of another. (Special Education, math, Foriegn Language usually) but they are all paid the same. You may be under the mistaken impression that needed positions make more? Or that High School teachers make more than Elementary Teachers? They don’t.

      Also, we aren’t asking to become rich. Or even “well paid” compared to a corporate scale. We’re asking to be treated fairly.

      But I don’t know that I can explain it to you, John. You refer to non-teaching as “in the real world.”

      This IS our real world.

      Teaching those students every day is very real.

      Best,

      Erica

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    2. Trust me, John, there are teachers, who if they could, would walk off the job tomorrow. And most would be miserable. I have taught for 22 years. I have done other types of work. I can’t stand the other types of work. I love seeing that “light come on” in a child’s eye. Nothing can match it. Especially if they have been told by many before me they can’t do anything. And I get to show them they can! Nothing matches that. That’s why most teachers stay. They would rather put up with idiots who have never taught but get to make grand decisions for us. They would rather work with poor conditions, no resources, etc. A majority of us feel like we are undervalued and given less than necessary pay to survive.

      As for gov’t school employees needing to realize about pay . . . the “real world” employees are governed by those who have never taught yet get told how to do their job. The “real world” employees are told their kiddies had better pass this test with flying colors or your school will be given a bad reputation for being a failing school. Most “real world” employees are given the needed resources to perform their job. They aren’t told we won’t provide textbooks, but you had better teach Civics, Math, Health, English, etc. well enough to pass our mandated test. Those “real world” employees aren’t told to teach their kids have to be taught with the newest technology but told we don’t have money for it. I could go on, but you get the idea.

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    3. I challenge anyone who thinks teaching is easy to try it for one week, one day, one class period. It is not hard (for some people) to stand up and talk, but it is quite difficult to TEACH, to touch the minds and lives of students and inspire them to LEARN. And yes, the pay is barely enough to maintain a standard of living most would call “middle class.” This is not even factoring in the feelings of inadequacy some teachers may feel when surrounded by the parents (or even students) that they teach, who live in much nicer houses, drive much nicer cars, and can afford many luxuries they cannot. But we go through all of this because we LOVE teaching. We are PASSIONATE about what we do, and no other work is as fulfilling or meaningful or precious to us than teaching. [note: “teaching” is NOT synonymous with “babysitting,” “test preparation,” or “child rearing,” though these all tend to be things teacher end up having to do.] It is no 9-5 job, where one clocks in, does some work, clocks out to go home, and forgets about work until the next day. Teachers spend countless hours working at home, and even when we’re not working (grading papers, planning lessons, etc.), we’re very often thinking of how we can be better, figuring out a different way to explain something so every student will understand, laying in bed at night, unable to sleep because we’re worried about a student…the list goes on and on. “Teacher” is not just a job, it is a lifestyle, it is a personality trait. It is who we are to our core, and no matter what other job we may do, it always what we strive to be.

      John, I have no idea what your “real world” job is, but I would venture a guess, based on the air of superiority in your post, that you have had some sort of post-secondary education, and that a degree of some kind may be a prerequisite for your position. Many teachers, whose jobs do not happen to exist on some foreign plane, but are actually part of the “real world,” played a part in helping you get where you are today. I think if you had poured as much of your heart and soul and spirit into someone as they did with you, you would be extremely disappointed to hear such disparaging remarks from someone you tried so hard to help.

      Each (good) teacher tries his/her very hardest to make their students better, to help them be good people, as well as instilling in them a thirst for knowledge and a firm grasp of whatever their content area might be. That is what we wish for students. Unfortunately, some of them grow up to become legislators who never knew how much their teachers cared or how hard they tried, and don’t seem to understand what we need (mostly to have people involved in education form our policies, rather than someone who knows little to nothing about being in the classroom). Some of them grow up to be self-righteous jerks who may have never cared, and still don’t. But some of them grow up to be great people, productive caring members of society – parents, nurses, office workers, manual laborers, artists, musicians, and even teachers themselves. When we are able to see these former students, and they remember us, if they remember a particular trip or lesson or joke, and if we were able to inspire them or enrich their lives in any way, that makes the struggles worthwhile. Being able to touch the lives of students is why we do what we do, and why we can’t do anything else.

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  6. Sadly, I don’t think ANYTHING will help convince the current majority in the Legislature. They have been bought and paid for by groups opposed to public education. The real endgame for these folks isn’t cutting the budget. That’s just a smokescreen. Rather, it is to strangle, weaken, and destabilize public education to the point that they can justify pushing taxpayer money into religious and other private schools and “charter schools” through vouchers and tax credits. This WILL happen, and no amount of protesting is going to change that. You can’t reason with people who are both ignorant and stupid. Luckily, it can be reversed with a future election, but many students and our entire state will suffer in the meantime. So, welcome to this brave new world, brought to you by Art Pope.

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    1. I dont think it is a Republican or Democrat issue….pay has been frozen or cut for 5 or 6 years. Republicans have only been in power since Jan of 2011.

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      1. A lot of voters voted in Republicans as part of that “shellacking”. Most of those voters were quite unhappy with the way the Democrats were handling our state’s budget concerning education. Well, we were sorely disappointed with the vote. Sadly, they have kept on that path.

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  7. I’m currently not a teacher. But I was for 4 years. I come from a family of educators and most of my friends are teachers. So when I say “we” please know it comes from the heart. And I’m sorry if this comment is longer than the blog itself. I don’t have one and I have something to say!

    The fact that teachers that actually stay in North Carolina already is a testament to their fortitude and desire to give back, to educate and care for children. A family of 4, that has an income of 44, 000 (on average-depending on benefits) qualifies for government assistance in North Carolina. Read the a blog-do the math. Had I stayed in education (and I left it for reasons other than the desire to be an educator) I would have just finished my 9th year of teaching in NC. I would, bare bones (no Masters Degree, National Boards, Supplement or Bonus Merit Pay-based on standardized tests) have taken a pay cut of roughly $8500 dollars altogether. If you add average merit pay and my county supplement (both a percentage of the State Teacher Salary Schedule-something no one has gotten a “step” in in 5 years) the number would jump to roughly $25,000. And this is the average. Most likely it would be higher.

    25,000. That’s a down payment on a home. A year of college for a child. A nice car that would last a family for years and years. But then again, let’s not forget that I spent about a grand each year on my class so cut of 5 grand of that money my family would have desperately needed. NEEDED, not wanted. Why do we spend this? Because we love our students too. We know what they deal with at home. It breaks our hearts. We shield them from bullets and tornados. For goodness sake many teacher have given students kidneys and parts of their livers. Find a teacher that doesn’t know about another teacher doing this. I dare you.

    I guess the “There, but for the Grace of God go I (or my child)” is our motto. And now, people think that about us. That’s what teachers feel. We aren’t helping the impoverished anymore. WE are becoming the impoverished. At least in North Carolina. And that’s as things are now. With the cuts it will be worse. That’s why the author says: “ENOUGH!”

    Had I not found myself in another situation in life, and still taught (which I would), I would probably have my Masters and possibly my National Boards. (I was a good teacher. And when/IFI return I will grow into a better one–each year a teacher grows.) I would have, on average made, in the 2012-2013 school year, from 35,400 to 43,200 (I’m working on averages here). Not chump change, but not a whole lot for someone with a Masters Degree and 2 years of grueling work to get National Board Licensure and 9 years experience. WAIT, that costs 1,000 (last time I checked) to even apply for so subtract that to 42,200. And if they cut the Masters Degree pay, don’t doubt that there will be cuts in National Board Certification. Oh wait, I paid (theoretically) for my Masters too…so, how much did I really get out of it so far? Not much. Except for the fact that I’m a better teacher. So, probably many of us would still have done it. And probably still will. Maybe we’re just gluttons for punishment?

    If I were a single Mom and had to go back to work, I would qualify for Government Assistance if I didn’t work! Why? Because I would still make BELOW THE POVERTY LINE! http://www.familiesusa.org/resources/tools-for-advocates/guides/federal-poverty-guidelines.html . In fact. that would go for a single mother of two or even one (although benefits would change).

    Maybe we teachers need to put that into effect for a year or so and see how our government likes that? It’s illegal for North Carolina State Employees to Unionize and we need to make a point somehow.

    Once again, that’s with a Masters Degree and National Board Licensure. Monetarily speaking, a Bachelors Degree in education is about as useful as a high school diploma anymore. IF THAT. As cable installers make more on a GED.

    All of it boils down to money. And, make no mistake, it’s to drive the better, more experienced teachers out. And lest you think this does not impact your child-think again. Look at the studies out there. Teacher experience and children’s success go hand in hand. And there is a new curriculum coming (if it hasn’t already reached your district) and it’s not easy. Your child needs experienced teachers to teach them and to guide new teachers.

    And class size (something else the state wants to cut) DOES matter. For every politician that tells you it won’t there is are 10 school psychologists with a dozen studies that will tell you it does.

    We exhaust ourselves for so little because 95% of us truly care. We don’t want to be rich. We want to support our families without the strain and stress of worrying how we might send a child to college without putting THEM into spiraling debt too. Some of us may want to go to the beach for a week every summer. Some of us would like to know we can fix our car if it breaks or repair a broken window. Or put enough back to retire one day. We don’t want extravagance But we do have a breaking point. And teachers are quickly reaching that breaking point.

    But you know what? It’s not all about the money. Most teachers live to work. They do it because they want to. Why else would they/we, for goodness sake? No we aren’t perfect, but we work hard. And we do it for the children.

    What it all really boils down to is the fact that we feel degraded and demoralized because we put so much blood (sometimes a lot), sweat (for sure), and tears (more than I can count) into our jobs. We do it for our students and our family. Yet, teachers are so little compensated and so little respected. And the state legislature is about to break many, many excellent teachers. They’ll have had ENOUGH.

    ENOUGH! ENOUGH! ENOUGH!
    -P.B.

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  8. Hello-you and I are very much alike…I moved here from SC as well with about the same number of years experience and also have my National Board. I will be getting my master’s degree in December. Your point was excellently made and I appreciate what you’ve written. I did want to add that the email you referenced in one of the above comments that you received about your National Board pay is a standard one we get every year. I don’t think it necessarily has anything to do with this bill. I’ve gotten the same one for the past three years and I think its purpose is to remind us that the National Board pay COULD be eliminated by legislature, but right now it is not one of the things they are removing, thankfully! Also, there will be a grandfather clause so you are not in jeopardy of losing that additional pay. That doesn’t matter though, does it? It’s about the principle of the whole situation. Again, thank you for making such a great point.

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    1. Yes, the misinformation I was given may make it so I personally don’t have to leave the state (which I was considering likely necessary) but the unfair treatment of colleagues and the profession as a whole is no less outrageous. It will certainly impact every educator, especially with the proposed increased class size (which I’d planned on addressing in another post). I have two small boys, and the idea of not having any teacher’s assistants baffled my second grader. Plus, and I hate to predict negativity, but the fact they they aren’t taking those things away now won’t mean they never will. We have to stand up for the eduction of North Carolina’s young people. They are worth the investment!

      Thanks for your kind words, fellow-SC native!

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  9. My husband is a teacher. I am self employed. We are grateful for his masters degree pay but very worried about the future of the profession. My youngest child is graduating from high school this year. My older child is a college senior. One is going to be an engineer, the other a physical therapist. NONE of their friends wants to teach! I do not blame them. That is what is going to happen…the older and more experienced teachers will leave or retire, and there will be few to take their place. In the mean time, we have started another business on the side to ensure that we have enough income for the future. I have grave concerns that the next area of attack is on the pension plan. I have not heard anything specific on this but it is happening in other states. I figure it is only a matter of time before our illustrious General Assembly picks up on that.

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  10. Your message speaks volumes. Here is the section that references our pay. It appears if it is worded correctly, that if we already receive the pay, then we will continue, but if I didn’t have my Master’s then I certainly wouldn’t be wasting the time and effort since apparently NC doesn’t feel it is important. I hope my rising high school senior changes her mind about wanting to teach. “SECTION 8.22. Notwithstanding Section 35.11 of this act, no teachers or instructional support personnel, except for school nurses, shall be paid on the “M” salary schedule or receive a salary supplement for academic preparation at the six-year degree level or at the doctoral degree level for the 2014-2015 school year, unless they were paid on that salary schedule or received that salary supplement prior to the 2014-2015 school year.”

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    1. Isn’t that just peachy. They require school librarians and guidance counselors to have a master’s degree to be a school librarian, but they will no longer pay them on an M degree scale. So how many people will sign up to to do that? Luckily, they will get rid of instructional support all together anyway, in their effort to “cut the fat”, and move our students to a world of online education and charter schools.

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  11. I was a nationally board certified teacher in nc for 14 years … now I will drive a tractor trailer so I can make some money … makes sense, no?

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    1. In a lot of schools you can choose whether to be paid on a 10-month basis or 12-month. The salary is only 10-month regardless; they just divide it up over 12 months instead of 10. Most people think we get paid for summer break, but that’s not really the case. I just choose to have my 10 month salary divided into 12 payments, so I’ll have a paycheck over the summer.

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      1. Exactly, Will. People make that mistake over our track outs as well. We were paid that month, but we’re out of school, so they think it’s a paid vacation. However, it’s the lower amount based on 10 months of employment. It doesn’t stop teachers from working very hard, preparing etc, during the unpaid time, however.

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  12. I thank God that I have sense enough to step out on faith and leave the teaching profession in NC. At the climax of my decision, I was facing so many financial challenged that I was at the end of my rope. I started teaching in 2005 as a lateral entry teacher because I liked the benefits, working with teend and the idea of summers off. I went into the Special Education field. I have regretted that decision since the 2nd year of the pay freeze because I had to move to a county were I actually took a pay cut. Teaching in NC is not worth the inhumane treatment these PROFESSIONALS are getting. Since leaving the profession, I have cleared all financial debt in less thsn 6 months, Im no longer stressed and during my true summer vacations, Im no longer forced to participate in professional development for no additional pay or compensation. My family is no longer stressed and we are prospering in a time where many are not. I think more teachers should really reevaluate their profession. I know you have a passion for what you do but lets be honest, your stsndard of living is probably lower thsn some of your students but yet, the powers that be in NC just want you to take the abuse with a smile because after all…..its for the kids. NC teachers deserve better. REVOLT, RETHINK your profession and if push comes to shove, REMOVE yourselves. You all have many valuable skills that transfer to other, more lucrative professions. You dont have to take this!

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  13. I’m a single mom, first year teacher, and because of budget cuts unemployed as of June 11th. I love my job, but I am digging myself a financial hole. My test scores were through the roof, but not good enough for any other jobs in the county I am in. I did not go into this job blind, but I am half way into my masters program and pretty much throwing in the towel.

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  14. This is so frustrating!! Thank you for enlightening a non-teacher on how unfair and shortsighted this is. I never considered teaching, specifically because of the salary. Being a highly educated teacher requires a level of selflessness that deters so many from the field. Thank you for writing this!

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  15. I was a teacher-for 23 years. But I had enough and just stopped last year. Fortunately the headaches and stomachaches have stopped and my hair is growing back. Yes-all that happened because of teaching.
    Everything that’s been said in this post is so wonderfully clear and concise-I don’t need to repeat it. All I will say is this: in the district I taught in, morale was amazingly low. Teachers were being pushed to the brink to do more and more for less pay. All the while they were basically being threatened with losing their jobs if they complained by being told constantly-just be thankful you HAVE a job. Very much a ‘thank you sir, may I have another’ situation. So they put their noses to the grindstone, barely looking up from their desks. So many teachers are afraid to say anything. To rally. To write a congressman, go to Raleigh. To do anything that rocks the boat. To do something that just might put their job on the line. Nothing will change until teachers rise up and DO SOMETHING. It is scary. it is difficult. It is time consuming. But it is the only way.

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    1. I left after 11 years of teaching. I felt battered and beaten. I had panic attacks. I was diagnosed with PTSD and ulcers. I am, after a year, finally sleeping and feeling better. I still have nights where I teach in my dreams and wake up so tired and distressed. Money was an issue but the bigger issue was the pressure, the abuse by the public and the insane expectations to do so much with so little. Our superintendent and principal pretty much said “suck it up” and often reminded us that we could be replaced with new teachers at a smaller salary. I have never felt so undervalued and insignificant. I am not sure this can be fixed.

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  16. I was a North Carolina Teaching Fellow. We were told that the state _needed_ teachers. We were told that finding a job would be _easy_. I taught two years (2008-2010) before I lost my job, and would still be making a first year teacher’s salary ($30,430) as a fifth-year teacher if I were still in the public schools.

    I was fortunate to find an amazing, secular private school that pays more than public schools with similar benefits. I actually get to teach, my class is small, and I have a lot of freedom over what I do.

    Basically, I’m treated (and paid) like a professional.

    Why is it so hard for public schools to treat teachers like this?

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  17. I am definitely not against what you’ve written, I’m a public school teacher as well. However, there is one mistake in your argument that may actually make you feel better. The state proposal would NOT cut YOUR masters pay, it just would not pay anyone who does not currently have a masters degree for any future degrees they may receive.

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    1. Yes, as I said to MWG, the misinformation I was given may make it so I personally don’t have to leave the state (which I was considering likely necessary) but the unfair treatment of colleagues and the profession as a whole is no less outrageous. It will certainly impact every educator, especially with the proposed increased class size (which I’d planned on addressing in another post). I have two small boys, and the idea of not having any teacher’s assistants baffled my second grader. Plus, and I hate to predict negativity, but the fact they they aren’t taking those things away now won’t mean they never will. We have to stand up for the eduction of North Carolina’s young people. They are worth the investment!

      Also, as SilverNC and others have commented here, the idea that we will honor some degrees and not others creates quite an inequity, doesn’t it? It makes it so that young people would not have any reason to join our noble ranks as public school teachers. And as Elizabeth said, many are currently working on (and paying for) their degrees now, but won’t be done by the magic deadline. They are very disenfranchised.

      What worries me most for our profession, though, is Bryan Bass’s comment. That phasing out public education (by redirecting money to charters and religious schools, etc.) is the very goal. That’s it’s not that they don’t understand what they are doing to public schools, but that that’s the unspoken POINT.

      Scary, huh?

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  18. Here is some perspective. I recently returned to the full time workforce after a 10-year “mommy gap” and my salary is more than double what the state plans to pay someone with 14 years of continuous experience. Plus, every pencil, scrap of paper and cup of coffee I need to get through the day is covered. And I can go to the bathroom whenever I want.

    I kept my skills fresh when I was home with young children and I am very good at what I do, but it is not rocket science. Or teaching. Through the years, the majority of my children’s teachers have been amazing. Extremely dedicated. Worried about my babies as if they were their own. Should our schools be faced with a Newtown or a Moore I have no doubt they would “love them through it” despite that not being anywhere on the job description. Oh yes, and they are learning, learning, learning.

    Here is my fear, even more than the fear that great teachers will leave to become corporate shills (or truck drivers). I fear that teachers will start acting like their pay checks…if I was making that salary in my world, I would be a clock puncher despite my personal work ethic. I would feel disrespected and not interest in giving any more than the basic requirements. Eventually, anything else would become NMP. Not my problem. I don’t want my kids – or anyone else’s – to be viewed like that.

    I put in overtime, I go the extra mile in my job not just because it is my personal work ethic, but because I am respected through my compensation and benefits. Is it realistic to pay teachers corporate salaries? Probably not. But it’s unrealistic to ask them to be amazing and then pay them for a job that almost anyone could do. Salaries shouldn’t be guaranteed (sorry, I’m not a fan of tenure) but baselines should be competitive and reflect the whole job, and quality should be recognized and rewarded. I am an educated woman who loves my children, but I know that I could not be a teacher anymore than I could be an accountant or a surgeon. Respect the job. It is that simple.

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  19. I hate to break it to you, but these issues are not restricted to teachers. I am a professional technical writer and I have seen this happen throughout the NC economy. My salary was frozen for eight years. When I did get a raise, it was hardly enough to matter (1.5%). My husband worked in IT and took a 30% pay cut with no warning. He worked 80 hours per week at that reduced pay with no overtime, despite being a contractor and therefore non-exempt. Sound familiar? It’s the same thing happening to teachers.

    I hate seeing this happen to our teachers. We have some very good teachers in my children’s elementary school, some of which will be laid off and others moved to other schools before next year. In my town, we have to spread out the good teachers because we have so few truly qualified teachers. Almost all of the teachers in our elementary school have been on edge for months about whether they will have jobs next year.

    The issue is bigger than teachers, however. We can beg the legislators to stop taking money from education and I have. But we need to give them an alternative. The overall economy of this state is the problem. The solution should help everyone. Any ideas?

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  20. Any word if this passed? I’m currently going to school for my masters degree and will be finishing May 2014, which would be too late. Really stinks for me and I will probably discontinue my classes if there will be no gain in it for me. Luckily I already have my National Board Certification but I’m sure they’ll find a way to cut that in the near future as well.

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    1. Hi Heather,

      It’s already passed the Senate, so we’re waiting on the House now. My understanding is they could have passed as early as yesterday, but I have not seen anything about it passing yet, so they must still be in deliberation. I’ve heard they have until June 30th, but I couldn’t find anywhere just now to verify that. That would be cutting it close for year-round schools like mine that start in early July!

      I feel strongly that you are an example of someone that they (the NC House) really need to hear from to understand that “grandfathering in” is not a magic solution, as it still creates an unfair discrepancy. We NEED you in the classroom as the new generation of dedicated, high-quality teachers! They need to understand that they are going to create an extreme cutoff line in our supply of educators as teachers will obviously decide to do other things, or go elsewhere as others have said here in the comments. Fast forward five or ten years as teachers retire…

      It’s short-sighted. It’s unfair. And most importantly, it’s not in the best interest of children.

      Best Wishes,

      Erica

      Like

  21. Don’t focus exclusively on legislators. Take a look at your own Central Office salaries. I bet (I know actually) those folks are doing very well.

    Assistant Superintendent for Basketweaving
    Directory of Technology Something-or-Other

    Sound familiar? That’s where a lot of these salary dollars are going.

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    1. Hi Veronica,

      While it’s true that our county has tended to be central-office heavy in the past, it’s less true nowadays. However, the legislation that has passed the NC Senate and is now in the House is specific to the state representatives and our salary, which is always set by the state.

      However, I agree that an “in the trenches” classroom teacher deserves to be paid as well – if not more so – than those who have left the classroom (or never were in one) for an office job. It’s always bothered me that no longer working with the kids is seen as a “promotion”. #sad

      ~Erica

      Like

  22. I’m a teacher. My husband has worked in the cable industry for over 14 years. No cable installer makes that much money! The amount is about half of what you posted.

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    1. Hi Paula,

      Thanks for the value of your family’s personal experience in your comment. You should know I don’t make your’ecards. They’re fairly common on the Internet, and this one made a strong point about installing education in our next generation vs. installing entertainment. I’m sorry if you took offense. None intended.

      I googled the US average for cable installers, and the first one to come up says the median is actually in the $50,000s for our nation:

      http://diplomaguide.com/articles/Becoming_a_Cable_Installer_Job_Description_Salary_Information.html

      Like teaching though, it depends on the level of degree held, location, and company greatly. I’m not sure what state from which you’re writing, but to be fair, the NC average for teachers is no where that high either. It has to account for Connecticut, though, where they make twice as much.

      Best,

      Erica

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  23. I work in education in a support field… I understand your emotion regarding pay. I arrive at school 30 min before the teachers, leave 30 min after almost all of them and make less than 1/2. Should we make more…sure.
    That said… you do need to check your facts… Average income for Teacher in NC is $54,000 while the average income for Cable TV installer is $41,000.
    Source
    http://www.indeed.com/salary?q1=cable+tv+installer&l1=NC
    http://www.indeed.com/salary?q1=Teacher+&l1=NC

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    1. Please check the facts which you have provided more closely.

      According to your own first link, a Catv Installer Cable Technician in North Carolina averages $73,000. Again, as I’ve stated, it clearly depends. Again, the meme said NATIONAL, not state. Again, I did not make it.

      I take a bigger issue with your second link for the teacher’s average. The $54,000 you quote clearly includes French tutors and SAT math tutors, all of which are listed with the average you sent. In the listed details, it shows you the average for just “Teacher in North Carolina”:

      It’s only $37,000.

      ~Erica

      Like

      1. Cable installers are subject to supply and demand. No policy committee sets their pay. If the installer does a good job, they keep their job. If they do a poor job, they’re gone.

        Imagine if education worked the same way. Good, effective teachers got raises and poor, ineffective teachers were removed. Wow, teachers would be highly paid professionals. Schools would compete for the best talent. Student achievement would soar.

        Instead, teachers themselves, through implementing work rules that shield ineffective teachers and mandating pay scales based on everything except merit, created a system where there is no correlation at all between teacher pay and student achievement. Teachers could fix things tomorrow by ditching all the rules they’ve spent decades setting up.

        There’s a reason our colleges are among the best on the world and our elementary/secondary schools are waaayyy down the list.

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  24. As a 23 year teacher, I agree with everything you’ve said. However, I think you’re mistaken about your pay dropping due to the Master’s degree cut. I’ve been told there is a grandfathered date and those already qualifying won’t have that cut. So you should fall under that qualification. I on the other hand had planned to start my masters next year. Though I have 23 years experience I’m not washed up and wished to continue my education, just hadn’t been able to in the past due to life circumstances. Money would still be tight to do it, but with no incentive once I’m done it makes me not want to at all. Which is a shame because my students will be missing out due to my lack of advanced education. Thanks for your thoughts.

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    1. Hi Sue,

      Yes, I won’t repeat them again here, but my comments to “A teacher too” and “MWG” were about this. Several working on their degrees who won’t have finished in time but have already made a hefty financial investment have also chimed in. This unfair and inequitable system of drawing a line in the sand for other teachers to better themselves, while it may be better than what I’d initially understood it to be for me personally (for now), I take no pleasure in it. It drains the education system that serves the same students I serve.

      Imagine a world where they not only value you furthering your expertise, but would help you in the cost of it. I’d like that world. It would serve children and our future well.

      Best,

      ~Erica

      Like

  25. I agree with everything you said in this post. However, National Boards are not on the chopping block. It’s deplorable that teachers in this state are treated and paid terribly. I should know…I’m one of them. Master’s degrees should carry more weight than the 10% too. It’s sad when we are telling our teachers that we no longer value you’re expertise enough to pay for it. There’s so much that can be said here and all the posts prior to mine have said it beautifully. Just know…I wrote all of the people I could about this months ago! I’ve sent the same emails (kept them in my documents) over and over again…I hope they are sick of hearing from me and possibly listen to what is obviously being said!

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  26. There’s a lot of teachers complaining here, but they obviously don’t understand the larger forces at work.

    There is no correlation between teacher pay and student performance. Repeat. There is no correlation between teacher pay and student performance.

    This is due to a wide variety of factors that often come down to education bureaucracy. Principals are not allowed to differentiate between great teachers and sub-par teachers. A whole host of work rules ensure the underperformers aren’t removed or demoted. I don’t know about NC, but in WI the unions would require school districts to provide retirement and health benefits from the state union, costing the district hundreds of thousands or millions more than comparable policies on the open market.

    It’s teachers who insist on these ridiculous rules, and therefore teachers’ fault their budgets are in horrible shape.

    If teachers would do an about-face tomorrow and insist on merit pay (the system for the entire private sector workforce), good teachers would be able to make as much as they were worth.

    If you go to a restaurant where all the waiters split tips you get shitty service. All the servers who want to work hard soon leave for better opportunities. The problem is, good teachers don’t have the option to leave for a school with better incentives. But the only group insisting on the current broken system are teachers themselves.

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    1. Nate,

      When you say, “There is no correlation between teacher pay and student performance. Repeat. There is no correlation between teacher pay and student performance.” What do you mean by student performance? How are you measuring it? You are not in education, so I am going to take a stab that you probably mean standardized test scores.

      “I want to be a teacher, so I can help students pass three hour tests where they correctly color in bubbles.” – No Teacher Ever

      One can tell you’re not a teacher – we don’t measure our “performance” that way. The government does, and they also don’t undertand what we do. We aren’t making widgets. It’s not a simple job. And this fact is very important to your “Merit Based Pay” argument…

      PLEASE see this video on Dan Pink’s research on what actually motivates people, especially when related to complex tasks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

      Then, please read my post “Vol.#2: Measuring My 2 Cents On Merit“. It’s based on actual classroom experience.

      I hope you will then understand that it’s not uninformed, misguided, or malicious teachers that are clinging to some old-fashioned idea. Rather, it’s those of us IN the profession that know the truth: “Merit Based Pay” is an very unfair way to assess a teacher’s worth and would be incredibly detrimental to the system of education.

      Best,

      Erica

      Like

  27. This is my first AND LAST year teaching in NC> I took a huge paycut, pay way more for “benefits” and have working conditions I never dreamed possible. I LOVE the kids, but they don’t pay me enough to do all of this grunt work, send me home with hours of work a night, and then I have to work another job and still have the energy to teach 30 kids the next day.
    PS: Why do teachers here have to dedicate an hour a day to bus/carpool/breakfast/hall duty for no additional pay? My day in is longer, the work is harder, the paperwork a joke, and the pay unacceptable. I don’t have 2 areas of certification and an MA to do this crap.
    I’ll miss the kids, but this job is not worth it. Dedicated teachers invest countless outside hours to provide a valuable education, but they don’t pay us enough for it here. The majority of us work a 2nd job just to get by.

    Like

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