Vol.#35: Do NC teachers really deserve more money?

Click to go to video. Apologies that WordPress would not embed.
Click to go to the video. Apologies that WordPress would not embed.

Last week’s post got an insane amount of attention and was even featured in the news:

It surprised me, to say the least. I spent the week mediating, reading, and responding to more comments than “Teaching Speaks Volumes” has received in its entire year.

The 176 comments thus far mostly fall into three categories:

1. Passion and Experience    Passionate, dedicated educators (and some in college studying to be one) shared their experiences and articulated their frustrations. Also, those that understand our plight voiced support. It was clear that this post resonated with educators of all political walks, as I’d noted at the beginning of the post was holding true in the other discussions I was having. It’s worth the read – these comments were quite moving.

2. Political finger-pointing    “Gov McCrory has only been in office for less than 7 months. It’s not his fault”.

Ironically, I’d be willing to bet it was the same people who get angry when President Obama’s camp brings up George W who made sure to point out how short McCrory has been in office thus far.


Both “sides” can make claims about how the other “side” did such-and-so “before they got here”. As I tried to articulate in the post: I don’t care to argue who created what portion of what mess; I care about cleaning it up. Can we all get on the same “side” please? The one with the American citizens’ best interests? Politics right now is so into being on sides with “winners” that it is our society’s future and the children who are the “losers”. The blame game is not helpful. We are where we are. And where we are sucks. Let’s just fix it.

Gov. McCrory and the current legislation are the ones tasked with the care of our state now. We address them not because they are where it all started, but because they are where we need it to begin to end. It is my fervent hope that a better understanding of teachers’ current frustrations, both from the data in the infographic and from the experiences witnessed in comments by educators, could help them make better decisions than we have experienced thus far.

3. Accusations of Greed    “If you’re only doing it for the money, then go find the money. If you’re doing it because you like your job and you want to help kids, what are belly-aching for? They haven’t fired you, have they?” ~Actual commenter quote

Some comments provided excellent examples of the opinion pervasive in the public that makes this such an uphill battle for teachers: “If you really loved the kids, you wouldn’t be griping about money.”

It is this line of thinking that, while I can’t speak for all teachers, I personally find the most insulting and infuriating. It is as condescending as it is out-of-touch with the reality of our situation.

Wanting to serve the best interests of students doesn’t shouldn’t mean we have no right to be able to provide for our own families. We are not expecting to get rich from what we do. We are wanting a living wage. It is increasingly impossible to be a teacher and afford life’s basics. Some can’t afford basic care for their own kids. We are college graduates – this should not be a poverty-stricken job.

Just how rich are we not getting?

I close with my latest easel.ly infographic where I explored that very question:



22 thoughts on “Vol.#35: Do NC teachers really deserve more money?”

  1. My name is Dale Cole, and I am the current NC Principal of the Year. Along with that distinction comes a place as an adviser to the state board of education. I wanted to make you aware that I read your blog last week through a link I received on Twitter and was blown away not only by the content, but by the simple and professional way that it was put together. I applaud you for representing our profession so well and with such heart-felt zeal. I shared your blog with each of the board members, and all of those that responded were shocked at what they saw. I will be sharing this follow-up as well. We are constantly being compared with other countries regarding student success on test scores (even though it is easy to show that virtually no country on earth attempts to educate in the manner that we do for the diverse population that we serve), but yet no one talks about how those countries (Finland, South Korea, etc.) engender respect for their teachers through salary, cultural expectations of respect, and expectations. Please feel free to email me with more information that I can share with the board. You can find the list of members, including us, on the state board’s website.


    1. Mr. Cole,

      I am uncharacteristically speechless.

      I feel a little like I’ve been rambling in a dark room mostly by myself and suddenly the microphone and spotlight have been turned on and I realize it’s a packed auditorium with powerful people like yourself.

      Honestly, I just write from my perspective based on my experiences in the classroom. It reflects what I think and how I feel. Nothing would please me more than to think it might help those who make the big decisions for North Carolina, as it would in turn help us serve our students.

      Thank you so much for your comment; I am humbled and it truly means a lot. Thanks also for all you do to support North Carolina teachers, both at your own school and throughout the state.




  2. Thank you for the work that you are doing around this topic, Erica. I’ve found both posts to be very informative. Unsettlingly so. This post left me wondering how the numbers would change if you were to factor in teacher workdays and pre/post planning. The students do 180 days, but contracted teachers do many more than that. Not to mention the fact that most good teachers spend most of the summer working on material for school … for free. The thing that baffles me the most is that in a state with so many fantastic institutions of higher education (Duke, UNC, Wake Forest, NC State, etc.) our legislators are not doing anything to attract the best and brightest into teaching. If a state is to be competitive in the future, the state must make the investment needed to provide the students that will shape that future with the best education possible. I hate seeing talent leak to RTP when it should be flowing into the schools.


    1. Thanks for your comment, Vance.

      You’re an example of the type of educator I really fear North Carolina will lose. Those of us who work to use data to inform our instructional practices, integrate technology into the classroom, and strive to best serve our students would be well-compensated in other fields.

      I considered including our workdays and such into the math, but I learned from some comments on the last post that there are some people of the opinion that we don’t do real work those days. Rather than take that fight on this time, I decided to show how even without those days, the public is getting quite a deal for the time we are with the students. But your point is a very valid one, and also systemic of the public misunderstanding what exactly it is we do.

      Colleges and RTP would certainly flourish if they had a wealth of students coming from a healthy educational system. Starting support at age 18 certainly is not in their best interest either, is it?




      1. No worries Erica, I believe in education too strongly to bail. As far as I am concerned I am in it for the long haul. Though a quick calculation reveals that moving into the lumber department at Home Depot would mean a raise of $3 per hour. In the end, however, I cannot think of another profession where I can so directly impact the future of our state, country, and world.


    2. It is so sad to see the numbers when you continue to add in the extra hours and non-paid days teachers actually work. Lets assume you have 14 teacher workdays, you work one hour each day after students leave, you spend 2 hours per weekend preparing lessons/grading/etc, and you spend 3 days of your summer vacation in non-paid professional development. That would mean you make $202.41 per day (elementary $10.12 per student per day, secondary $1.69 per student per day). The worst part is that the assumptions I made are actually very low. Most of the teachers I work with are there for more than 1 hour a day after students leave and work more than 2 hours per weekend. They spend the majority of their summers just trying to get prepared for the next year. As teachers we know how essential workdays and the extra time is to our students. The fact that members of the public don’t recognize this fact just shows that there is a lack of understanding of what really happens in a classroom. A teacher does far more for a child than a babysitter does, yet they are paid far less.


  3. Thank you so much for this wonderful blog. Like others who have commented here, I feel that I have been so alone, but I don’t anymore. I teach at a NC Community College that has an early high school and we are suffering greatly under numerous demands for reform and change without due compensation and less and less control over what and how we teach. Please keep up the good fight! You’ve renewed my energy, and I’m back in the fray with you.


  4. Wow! Nicely said. 3 completely valid points. I do wish the legislators would wake up soon before we lose more great teachers! It is just becoming ridiculous! We do what we do every day because we wanted to mAke a difference and we love children but it does become increasingly difficult to support our own personal families on the salaries we still have. Considering gas prices and the cost of living, teachers are ranking too low on the pays ale of America. I just pray things improve because the main harm is being done to everyone’s future: the children!


  5. It be nice if education funding was left at 39.6% of the state budget like it was in 2005 when the lottery was past. Then all lottery money TRULY went to education. There still was a lot of FAT that could have been cut over the past 8 years and changes needed to be made to get rid of bad teachers. But could you imagine combining all that together how we could be taking care of our teachers and kids?


    1. MP,

      I get nervous when people say something that sounds so simple as “get rid of bad teachers” since it is not a simple task. How are we measuring that? It usually means firing teachers based on standardized test scores, which is ridiculous. I am not a measure of how well my students color in bubbles with a #2 pencil. That doesn’t measure my worth. Or theirs.

      But I agree with you, we should return to the funding levels from before. I’d add the tax rates from then too, which were lower for the middle class and higher for the uber-rich.

      Thanks for your comment,



  6. Erica,
    As always, you are a wonderful, articulate, professional advocate for educators. Keep up the excellent work. I’m proud to call you my colleague and friend!


  7. Thank you. I have taught my entire career in NC (12yrs) and it breaks my heart to see what is happening. My children attend the school I teach at. I worry what this will do to them. Ad I worry that seeing me struggle (both with the job and the related financials) each and every year impacts them negatively. My principal said today that at our school 50% of the students could qualify for vouchers. This terrifies me. Thanks for your posts, I will be sharing them with everyone I meet. Keep them coming!

    Ps. I am sadly relieved I did not bend to pressure from my dad when he wanted me to get my Masters. Thinking I may loose tenure and National Board pay in the future is enough.


  8. Just a side note: as a teacher who is trying to support a family on my salary (and my wife is a teaching assistant, ha) a babysitter is a luxury I can’t afford.


    1. I hear you. I saw the “free & reduced lunch” forms our students fill out, and a teacher’s salary qualifies for his/her children to have free/reduced lunch at the school in which she teaches.

      Sad. And Unacceptable.



  9. As a beginning teacher (with college loans) and stuck at the bottom tier of our pay rates, I will be making well below the “average” on your visual organizer. Now that class cap sizes have been taken away, here is my current stats to be placed in your graph: apx. $30,429.96/year; divide that by 180 days in school(even though we work more and that is how many days we have students)= 169.06/day. This year we will have an average of 25 students per class that would be $169.06/25 students= $6.76/student per student per day. If the students are at school for apx. 7 hours each day then i am paid around $0.97 per child per hour. Although some teachers make more and some make less, being stuck at the very bottom is very depressing; especially knowing how “valued” education is. Just wanted to give you a perspective of a first year teacher. Thank you for continuing to support our NC teachers!


  10. Thank you for your well-written blog posts… I came across this as I was doing some *ahem* unpaid research on Edmodo & Youtube for the classes I teach… and it’s after 10 pm. In other words, I am like many here–this is my 15th year teaching, and I still work past 5 pm, and then frequently find myself working weekends, evenings, and the summer. This is not because I am unprepared or because my experience is not serving me well, it is because with all the new resources that are exploding into our classrooms, it takes every effort to stay ahead and on top of the work. When I entered teaching in 1999, I did not have a computer of my own, I did not have a cell phone, my students didn’t have email addresses OR computers; internet access was only found at colleges and rich people’s houses…My students’ parents had even less exposure to technology or the internet, and certainly did not expect constant email updates on their child’s progress… Now, 15 years later, even our poorest kids have cell phones, multiple email addresses, social networking, etc–today a 9th grader asked me what I meant by “land line”. I teach a foreign language–you better believe that I spend lots of time researching the latest trends in that target culture to stay on top of things like music, TV, film, etc. I spend my own money to experience professional development overseas to enhance my language skills. I do this because it makes me a better teacher… but at some point, I wonder when will I reach my limit of what I can afford to do… we have 2 kids, 1 still in daycare, and that’s $10,000 a year!! I still have college loans. We don’t even have enough money to save for our kids’ futures, our retirement, and we juggle bills by paying some bills some months and skipping some bills other months. I can only hope and pray that educators like you will continue to keep us on the legislative radars.
    We need this state to realize what is truly happening.
    Keep up the good work.


  11. Thank you for providing this platform, Erica, and for your passion and willingness and TIME to express what so many of us experience and feel. When we had Parent Night this year, I felt a strong desire to let parents know of the hurdles we face, the constant barrage of new training accompanied by high expectations to be processing and using the “new” immediately in our classes….and then evaluated on how we’ve done. I truly want to focus on and reflect on my teaching and the children whom I see each day, reaching out to them and their families. I rarely have time as we’re seemingly in a constant frenzy of data acquisition and processing. The fact that I came across your blog is rather miraculous, but I needed to take time off for a medical procedure and decided it was finally a chance to take a look at Edmodo and thus stumbled upon your post. Thank you again!


  12. Jeez, you guys are the biggest bunch of whiners I’ve ever seen. $255.26 per days isn’t a living wage? Come on! You guys didn’t get drafted by Uncle Sam. You chose your career. You knew what you would be paid. You’re a bunch of entitled babies. To the new teacher complaining about their $30K starting salary – that’s exactly what I made when I graduated college. Welcome to the real world. Now I make many times that because I chose my career wisely. You guys made your choices. Quit your belly aching.


    1. I’ve rarely seen this much uninformed opinion and sarcastic vitriol in one comment.

      1. $255.26 per day with students, not days working.

      2. “You knew what you would be paid.” No. That’s the point. There was a contract for experience and pay the state has not honored for six years now. If you are going to come off this nasty, maybe you should know what you’re talking about.

      3. …”that’s exactly what I made when I graduated college.” How long ago was that I wonder? Was it with a master’s degree and less than six years ago? Because if not, it’s a totally moot point.

      4. “Now I make many times that because I chose my career wisely.” You believe becoming a teacher is an “unwise choice”. How sad.

      5. “biggest bunch of whiners”…”belly aching.” I would never have the arrogance to pass that level of judgement on someone’s hardship when I’ve never walked a mile in their shoes. Or a yard, even.

      6. “whiners” “entitled babies” Ah. The lowest form of discourse. Name calling.

      You have summed up the uneducated opinion that exists today in the public about the plight of the teachers and the state of education. I only hope that, when it comes time to make a change, voters are more enlightened than you, Joe.

      I also pray you are not a parent.



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