The NC legislature, which has sparked the weekly peaceful protests known as “Moral Monday“, named budget conferees last week. The first 17 people arrested back in April (out of the almost 500 arrests thus far) have had their hearings set for late September. By the time the court is hearing their cases, traditional calendar school will be getting underway and year round school will be in its third month.
As they hash out the final budget negotiations, we await to hear which budget proposal the compromises will favor. Although in the past five years teachers’ salaries have been frozen and state funding for public schools has fallen by $170 million, right now the best we can hope in most cases for is to maintain this fairly miserable status quo.
It’s not what one would expect to be hoping for, considering things are so dismal. Rodney Ellis (president of the N.C. Association of Educators) has been quoted as saying:
“Unfortunately, it’s disheartening, seeing some of the advancements made over the years rolled back. Right now (we’re) looking at state teacher pay ranked 48th in the nation. It would take a 4 percent increase just to get up to South Carolina.” [My emphasis]
Now, readers of my blog are already aware: I’m from South Carolina. Since the mid-80’s, I grew up in the Low Country, went to college in the Midlands, and then started my teaching career in Update South Carolina. I’ve covered the gamut. Let me assure you: they do not have a wealthier tax base than we. I promise.
In 1997, then-governor of North Carolina Jim Hunt and the legislature made a commitment to raise North Carolina’s teacher pay to the national average with the Excellent Schools Act. Teachers’ salaries rose to 95 percent of the national average, and North Carolina ranked 21st in the country in teacher salaries by 2001 [Source]. It is that time that I made a change – I moved here from South Carolina. North Carolina seemed so much more enlightened in its attitude toward education.
My, how things have changed.
“The North Carolina average teacher salary last year was nearly $10,000 less than the national average, according to the National Education Association. Public schools have lost more than 4,000 teachers within the first three years of their careers since 2008. Teacher pay in North Carolina in the South tops only West Virginia and Mississippi.” [Source]
The data supports that it is the teacher that makes a difference in student achievement. To that end, NCCAT is an amazing professional development program here in NC:
“Increasing teacher effectiveness is fundamental to improving public education. NCCAT provides teachers with new knowledge, skills, teaching methods, best practices and information to take back to their classrooms. NCCAT’s instructional programming is designed to give teachers the support and resources they need to be highly effective and enhance student learning.”
However, half of NCCAT’s staff was laid off and course offerings were reduced after the 2011 budget slashed annual funding from $5.9 million to $3.6 million without warning. The Senate’s budget would finish the job, and cut the program all together.
The Senate budget would also complete the phase-out of the Teaching Fellows Program, which recruits 500 top high-school graduates each year to become teachers. They can receive scholarships if they commit to teaching for four years here in North Carolina. The House budget would send some students to private school at the expense of millions to taxpayers and public schools.
North Carolina has a small budget surplus, however this GOP legislature is cutting spending as though they were driving a combine through a wheat field. Andrew Taylor, political science professor at N.C. State University, said some of the changes are “almost tribal,” with Republicans looking suspiciously at any programs associated with Democrats. This suggests it’s a matter of politics, not the budgetary necessity they ascribe.
And although I am not going to argue we are in a fantastic economy right now – are we to believe the economy has hit North Carolina harder than its southern cousin?
This is a case of priorities. Current Governor McCrory has stated his goal is for “meaningful careers for educators”. If that and the education of North Carolina’s children are indeed priorities (and not just talking points during election season) then they simply have to put their money where their mouth is.
We may not all be in as dire straits as the Johnston county teacher who, after seven years of teaching still makes $34,000 a year and can’t afford health insurance for her children, but all teachers in this state are suffering greatly.
Maybe that Johnston County teacher should make a change.
She’d make $9,000 more a year...in South Carolina.
A petition and hyperlinked emails of the conferees follows.
Here’s the list of conferees: