Open Letter to Gov. McCrory and the NCGA Concerning Bonus Pay for Teachers

Dear Gov. McCrory and members of the North Carolina General Assembly,

This may not be a popular opinion, but it is one that is a matter of principle to me.

I will be receiving $2,000 in bonuses this year for having a certain number of students pass the AP English Language and Composition Exam for the 2015-2016. Many of you may think that it will somewhat ameliorate tensions with public school teachers like me. I do not think it will at all. I feel that it just exacerbates the real problem: lack of respect for all public school teachers.

I am not going to keep my bonus. To me it’s just academic “blood money.”

I have read about this provision of bonus money frequently in the summer. It’s in the budget that the governor is expected to sign this week, a provision adding bonus pay for teachers of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, CTE, and 3rd grade. As the News and Observer reported this week (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article89154042.html),

“Advanced Placement course teachers will receive $50 bonuses for each of their students who score 3 or higher on AP exams. Teachers of International Baccalaureate Diploma Program courses will receive a $50 bonus for each student who scores 4 or better on IB exams.

Those bonuses are capped at $2,000 per teacher per year. Scores from 2015-16 and 2016-17 will be used. Bonuses are to be paid in January 2017 and January 2018.

Teachers whose students earn approved industry certifications or credentials will win bonuses of $25 or $50 per student, depending on the value of the credential as determined by the state Department of Commerce. The bonuses are capped at $2,000 per teacher per year.”

In fact, I would receive more money in bonuses if there was no cap. But unlike class sizes, you have capped the bonuses.

But, as I said, I will not keep the bonus. Part of it will be taxed. The state will get some of it back. The feds will get some of it. Some of what the feds will get may be paying for Medicaid in other states, which is ironic because we didn’t expand it here in NC. None of it will go to my retirement plan.

The rest I will give back to my school. And don’t think I do not need the money. I do – two kids, car payment, mortgage, therapy for a special needs child, etc.

But I can’t make it this way, especially when I know why the bonus is given and the fact that it doesn’t really belong to me because so many more people at my school helped my students pass my particular AP test, one that does not even have any influence on their transcript.

I know that there are other teachers I know well who will receive bonuses for their students passing AP tests. If they keep that money, that’s their business. They need the money. They have families and needs. I will not in any way ask them what they will do with it.

There are many reasons for my opinion, and all are rooted in principles and respect, but I will attempt to explain them clearly and concisely.

1. I do not need a carrot stick. If getting a bonus to get students to perform better really works, then this should have been done a long time ago. But it does not. I do not perform better because of a bonus. I am not selling anything. I would like my students and parents to think that I work just as hard for all of my students in all of my classes because I am a teacher.

2. This creates an atmosphere of competition. I did not get into teaching so that I could compete with my fellow teachers and see who makes more money, but rather collaborate with them. Giving some teachers a chance to make bonuses and not others is a dangerous precedent.

3. I did not take those tests. The students took the tests. Sometimes I wish that I could take the tests for them, but if you are paying me more money to have students become more motivated, then that is just misplaced priorities. These students are young adults. Some vote; most drive; many have jobs; many pay taxes. They need to be able to harness their own motivation and hopefully I can couple it with my motivation.

But many of these students are taking eight classes, participating in extracurricular activities, and helping families. Plus all of the testing that we put on students that takes away from actual instructional time is staggering. Sometimes, I am amazed at what our students actually accomplish in light of the gravity they are placed under.

4. I was not the only person who taught them. To say that the success of my students on the AP English Language and Composition Test solely rested on my performance is ludicrous. While the cliché’ “It takes a village” might be overused, I do believe that the entire school’s faculty and staff has something to do with not only my students’ success, but my own. The content, study skills, time management, discipline that students must exercise to pass the AP test certainly did not all come from me. Everyone on staff, every coach, every PTSA volunteer has helped to remove obstacles for students so they could achieve.

5. Bonus pay does not work. It’s like merit pay. There is really no evidence that it helps public schools. Remember the ABC’s from the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s? Yep, I do too.

6. The state does not have a reputation of fully funding their initiatives. Again, remember the ABC’s? I still do. Those bonuses dried up because they were not fully funded. And after the bonuses are taken away in the future (which they probably will), will the expectations of student performance be lessened? History says that it will not.

7. My class is not more important as others. They all matter. I wrote Rep. Stam last fall concerning his views on merit pay and what subjects were more important than others,

“If some subjects matter more than others, then why do schools weigh all classes the same on a transcript? If some subjects matter more than others, then why do we teach all of those subjects? I certainly feel that as an English teacher, the need to teach reading and writing skills is imperative to success in any endeavor that a student wishes to pursue after graduation. In fact, what teachers in any subject area are trained to do is to not just impart knowledge, but treat every student as an individual with unique learning styles, abilities, and aptitudes in a manner that lets each student grow as a person, one who can create and make his/her own choices. “

8. This sets a dangerous precedent in measuring students and teachers. As I stated in my aforementioned letter to Rep. Stam,

“Effective public schools are collaborative communities, not buildings full of contractors who are determined to outperform others for the sake of money. And when teachers are forced to focus on the results of test scores, teaching ceases from being a dynamic relationship between student and teacher, but becomes a transaction driven by a carrot on an extended stick. Furthermore, the GOP-led NCGA still does not seem to acknowledge that student growth is different than student test scores. When some of our colleagues deal with students who experience more poverty, health issues, and other factors, then how can you say that those teachers do not “grow” those students when an arbitrary test score is all that is used to measure students?”

9. This is a reward, but far from showing respect. It’s an election year. Many teachers got a raise, but again that is an “average” raise. Bonuses in this case seem more like “hush money” and a means to brag that you seem to care about teacher compensation. But if you really respected teachers, you would do more for them than give “bonuses” to a few of them. You would reward them with salaries comparable with the rest of the nation. You would restore due-process rights for new teachers, you would give back graduate degree pay, you would stop measuring schools with a defeatist model, and you would restore longevity pay.

10. It’s pure electioneering. There is uncontrolled charter school growth. There are loosened sanctions on for-profit virtual schools. There are massive amounts of money going to Opportunity Grants which will no doubt fill the coffers of schools that do not even teach the same curriculum as those teachers you want to “reward” with these bonuses. There is HB2, HB3/TABOR, and an ASD district still out there. There is the lowered per pupil expenditure. All of this affects the very schools that you think a bonus will help to hide.

These bonuses are not part of the solution. They are a symptom of a bigger problem. And while I will defend each person who receives this bonus his/her right to keep it and spend it any way he/she chooses, I plan to give mine to my school, one of many that you have not fully resourced.

Stuart Egan, NBCT
West Forsyth High School

21 thoughts on “Open Letter to Gov. McCrory and the NCGA Concerning Bonus Pay for Teachers

  1. Last semester, I was finally ranked at senior at a local university. However, I was forced to change my major from Art Education for several reasons. I realized the public School teachers are not appreciated for their true values, the public schools are overcrowded, at times there is no support from parents, or principle(s), especially when a child has behavior problems, etc. and the teachers are definitely underpaid. I know this because I did my student observations a year ago in two local Robeson county schools. I know this because I have spoken with many local public teachers that currently teach in the area and to many retired teachers. One teacher told me he is not allowed to contact parents with student behavior problems, and that his principal does not want to be notified of student behavior issues. During the visit to this school, I felt I needed a police escort. Later that day I return to my campus to talk with my advisor. I told my advisor I did not want to return to that school to complete my student observations. Thank goodness another school was available to complete my observation. I won’t tell you the name of the teacher nor the school but a report was submitted to the county. We need to support our teachers nor only emotionally but financially. I know teachers are some of the most intelligent gifted people on earth. The requirements to be a teacher are extremely difficult and demanding. A teacher is trained in many disciples. Many teachers leave the Robeson area, cross over to South Carolina and receive a much higher salary. Some of the school environments are supportive of their teachers, but not all are. While completing my observation paperwork, I told the truth about my bad school observation experience. I can only hope changes would be made to make that school and other schools, a better, safer, more supportive working environment for the highly qualified teachers in Robeson county. A teacher needs a good working environment to prepare the children for the 21st century. If I were thirty years younger I would have continued with the major in art education, but I’m almost 70 and don’t need the stress and lack of compensation for my diligent efforts and the earned high GPA while in college. I come from a long line of educators and I was saddened to change my major in my senior year. I don’t know the answers on how to fix these problems but I can pray for unity and the awareness of the importance of supporting your local public schools, your educators, and teaching students to be creative thinkers.

    Like

  2. You will probably get the bonus this year, it being an election year where McCrory wants to be reelected, but don’t count on it in the future, I worked in the state of NC for 30 years. I saw programs like this come and go, come and go.
    If he wanted to do the right thing, he should at least bring back longevity to everyone. I cannot he cut that out and then “pretended” to give teachers raises. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

    Like

  3. I’m in NJ, but my Mom taught Special Education for 26 years. If she hadn’t passed away 16 years ago, I would declare on 19 stacks of Bibles that Mama wrote this letter. I can lot count the # of times Mama went into her own purse, supplementing classroom supplies, teaching materials, etc. She was so proud of her students, even helping one student with a prom dress, & another with her wedding (& future ambition as a homeowner). Both girls had been her students at least 10 years before, but she made a lasting impact. At her funeral, many young adults came up & -introduced themselves as former students. The young lady who bought her first home with Mama’a guidance had purchased 2 additional properties by the time Mama passed away. I say all that bcuz teachers make an everlasting impact on their students, & many don’t teach for the $, especially since teaching is not a high-paying vocation. These bonuses only placate the Legislature’a conscious. Throwing $ at the problems of low scholastic performance, overcrowded classroons, decaying infrastructures (many schoolhouses up here are over 80 years old), etc. It only generates competition, something that suits private, corporate atmosphere, not teaching.

    Like

  4. As a special education teacher, there will never even be a bonus for us. But, I am in it for the outcome, not the income. Bless you for your truthful and heartfelt words.

    Like

  5. This an election year and I hate the commercials for the governor, I listened to the first ones and argued with the TV!!! These are wonderful, well written letters that I wish would be taken seriously because they speak the truth of how teachers feel. It is what teachers talk about in the teachers lounge, at lunch, before faculty meetings, etc. There is no appreciation unless it comes from your principal/county office. Loved teaching high school music but hated the politics that got worse each year. Please pay attention to #9.

    Like

  6. It is truly amazing to me how you “educators” continue to gripe about your hard times. It doesn’t matter how much money is thrown at you and how much money the legislature throws to “education” issues, it’s never, ever enough is it? I have been a state employee in NC for 27 years now and the last decent raise I got was in 2009. I feel unappreciated also and my agency sees underfunding too. Just stop your whining!

    Like

    • Michael, why don’t you try being a teacher since you think the raises we receive are sufficient to fund not only our personal endeavors but our students’ as well because of the NCGA’s gimmicks? Don’t let McCrory convince you that he’s a benevolent leader who listens to his constituents and don’t let him succeed in pitting state employees against teachers. Other state employees need to ORGANIZE AND SPEAK OUT as loudly as teachers are doing. If you want a decent raise, quit griping about it in a blog comment section and really do something about it. At the very least, remember your sentiment about meager pay raises at the ballot box this November…

      Like

  7. Some valid points for sure. I disagree with a couple points, but agree with much of what you’ve suggested. The teachers who don’t teach AP and IB courses deserve just as much bonus money as those who do. Realistically, these teachers probably deserve more bonus money, because their job is generally tougher to do than it is for the AP and IB teachers. That being said, election year being the reason or not, we teachers got a nice pay increase and for that we ALL should be thankful.

    Like

    • You must not have as many years in as those of us who have topped out. With this great pay raise, a 15 year teacher will be making $1000 less than a 30 year teacher. So those last 15 years I put in are worth $1000. Thanks – that means a lot!!

      Like

      • Suzanne, this is the problem with many who are teachers. There is always something to complain about. The republicans have given us four pay raises now since taking over in 2011 and it’s never enough. Nobody ever mentions the pay cut and pay freeze we got for a few years when good ol Bev was in power and the democrats had total control like the republicans do now. The low pay issue has been around forever with teachers. It’s never enough. The republicans addressed the low end for beginning teachers due to the outrage of them never getting a raise for several years. Now it’s the too end. I understand the desire to earn more and live better. We all do, but when you decide to be a state employee you take a calculated risk with those kinds of careers because of the nature of the system. I am at the 15 years mark and still don’t know how much of a raise I will be getting, but whatever it is I will happily accept it and continue to do my job as expected. Let’s hope the economy in NC keeps perking forward so we can visit this issue again when next year’s budget is being debated. If Roy Cooper wins we will see right away how much he is willing to fight for teachers.

        Like

  8. In re to Michael’s response……………….I am so sorry that you feel the way you do. I refuse to do a battle of wits with an unarmed/uninformed person.

    Like

  9. My 11 year old daughter told me that her teachers seem stressed out because of the pressures put on them for their students to do well on tests and this creates a tense learning environment rather than a creative relaxed one, so school is not fun. She hates it. She used to love school, love learning and wanted to be a teacher herself.

    Like

  10. Impressive to say the least because it’s from many hearts of educators! Education being put in the best and honest perspective. Unfortunately the right ones will only read your message and do absolutely the least bit of change so that they can feel like they are working to stand for us, which is degrading. I just don’t know anymore🙄

    Like

  11. I READ THIS LETTER WITH A GREAT DEAL OF INTEREST AND FOUND SOME GOOD AND SOME BAD; SO LETS GET TO THE REAL PROBLEM IN EDUCATION AND THAT IS THE WORD TENURE. UNTIL WE RETURN TO PRINCIPALS (WITH AN OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE) HAVING THE AUTHORITY TO TERMINATE TEACHERS OF LOW QUALITY OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM WILL CONTINUE TO DECLINE.

    Like

  12. Pingback: The Top Ten Posts Of 2016 – Read Again For the First Time Or Ignore Once More | caffeinated rage

  13. Pingback: Can Berger, Moore, or Barefoot Explain This? Concerning School Funding Levels Pre and Post Recession | caffeinated rage

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s