If you live in North Carolina or are simply aware of the absurd decisions the North Carolina General Assembly has made recently, you have to know that as a teacher I am absolutely at a loss. I’m at a loss for words and at a loss about what my future as an educator holds in this state.
As a wholehearted public schools advocate, it hurts my heart watching the state of public education crumble right in front of me.
Of the $20.6 BILLION budget (that’s eight zeroes, y’all — $20,600,000,000), $10 million of those dollars are going toward the privatization of schools. This means that the state taxes that I pay and that you pay if you live in North Carolina will go toward private school tuitions and vouchers. This equates to thousands of dollars per child to attend a private school when North Carolina ranks 48th in our country in public school spending per student.
The budget also cuts teaching assistants ($120 million is cut from their budget) and increases class sizes for K-3 classrooms. Personally, if you’re going to increase class size — doesn’t it make more sense to have another adult in the room?
But hey, what do I know? I’m just a teacher who only has a year under her belt, who had no teaching assistant in a third grade classroom in a Title I school. The General Assembly probably knows best.
Teacher tenure will see its end, tuition prices will increase at the university level for all students, and teachers will face yet another year of no pay increase. Since everyone always seems so concerned with the DATA, let’s take a look at the statistics, shall we?
Many of you may have seen this chart floating around on some blogs or other social media sites, but seriously take a look at it — in a decade, the average North Carolina teacher pay is 15.7% LOWER. North Carolina is dead last on that list, and holds an average teacher salary at $45,947 when the national average is $56,383.
That’s over $10,000 more. No wonder North Carolina is also the 48th worst paying state for teachers.
With teacher pay not increasing in the last ten years, does the North Carolina General Assembly think the cost of living isn’t increasing, too? The fact that North Carolina educators have only seen a 1% pay increase in the last five years is appalling and disgusting.
If you want your children to have a better future, you need to recognize that your child’s teacher has a job of the utmost importance.
As a public school teacher, I know this job entails so much more than simply teaching your child how to decode words of texts and multiply multiples of ten. I’m incredibly passionate about my job and I like to think I’m good at what I do, and this new budget and policies make me feel the need to find a plan B.
I’ve never even contemplated a plan B. My heart hurts just thinking about doing something other than teaching.
I saw that a teacher from my high school turned in her resignation recently. She’s leaving the school because the salary doesn’t provide for her family. Instead, she’s managing a restaurant because they made her a better deal than teaching. She’ll actually have real weekends where planning and grading won’t take over her life, and she’ll have normal work hours. For those of you who aren’t teachers, you don’t understand how precious it is to have regular hours and to be able to leave your work at work. As I read about this teacher’s resignation, I felt sad knowing the school, county, and state was losing such a great teacher. My brother took her AP biology class this year and absolutely loved every minute of it, and now he’s going to NC State for Agriculture and Life Sciences, where he will use the knowledge he gained from her class in his college career. Doesn’t the North Carolina General Assembly know what it’s doing across the state?
So much is at stake here, and I don’t know how a group of “educated” people such as those in the legislature don’t see that. If you want me to do my job and to do my job well, you need to show me that you care about what I do.
I have a scholarship-loan that binds me to the state’s public education system for two years (let it be known that this program no longer exists, as it was cut with the Teaching Fellows program). I spent last year in a public school, and this upcoming year will be my second year in a public school, meaning that my debt has been paid as of the end of the 2013-2014 school year.
As thrilled as I am about my new opportunities in a dual language magnet school with a project-based learning program, I can’t say how long I’d like to stay in a state that treats my profession with such disrespect.
Here’s to hoping a young educator’s voice can be heard through all of the chaos concerning our state of public education.