N.C. Teachers Lean On Lawmakers for More Education Changes
Educators statewide are making a big push to "school" politicians about changes they say are needed.
Increasing teacher pay is one of the hot topics as North Carolina legislators return to Raleigh for a short 2014 summer session. On Wednesday morning, several hundred educators from across the state gathered in front of the Legislative Building to emphasize changes they say need to be made in the state’s education system. Many wore black T-shirts. Some announced "We ‘heart’ Public Schools," others read "Educators Vote November 4."
Ronda Gordon is a social worker at three Forsyth County public schools. She’s also a member of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE). According to Gordon, skilled teachers are leaving our state because they can earn more elsewhere. “People are applying for jobs in South Carolina and Virginia where they’re going to get a $7,000 pay jump compared to what they have here in North Carolina," she said. "They can still do what they love and get paid well.”
The 2008 recession caused state legislators to freeze teacher salaries. In 2012, they awarded a 1.2 percent increase. Last February in Jamestown, Governor Pat McCrory visited Ragsdale High School, his alma mater. That’s where he announced a 14 percent pay increase over the next two years for teachers just entering the profession. “Our intention is to build a strong foundation. The cornerstone of this foundation must start from the bottom up," explained McCrory. "This will strengthen North Carolina’s structure for recruiting and retaining the best teachers." This move would boost the entry level salary from a little more than $30,000 to $35,000. While Gordon agrees with this move she wants to know what is being done to help veterans in the public school system. "I’m a social worker for 14 years in Forsyth County and I deserve a raise just like the next person. We’re all in the trenches together.” Last week, the governor was in Greensboro at North Carolina A&T State University. There he announced new initiatives to expand salary increases to all teachers once the state budget is set.
Both Republicans and Democrats have said they’re struggling to find the money for across the board teacher raises. According to Gordon, NCAE and other educator groups have a suggestion."Legislators could stop the scheduled $300 million dollar tax break for the wealthy and corporations this year," said Gordon. "That could be a place to get the money to give teachers a 5 percent pay raise across the board.” Wednesday afternoon, educators hand-delivered signed petitions to Speaker of the House Tom Tillis and to Governor Pat McCrory. The petitions were signed by hundreds of thousands of voters who say they support public schools and teachers. Other changes educators want to see enacted include: restoring career status, also called teacher tenure, increasing per pupil funding so teachers can buy needed classroom materials and scaling back classroom testing to allow teachers more time to work with their students.