One of the most overused electioneering blurbs used by many multi-termed lawmakers in North Carolina this past election cycle was that our state has given the highest percentage “average” pay raise to teachers in the last four years.
It was echoed again by Rep. Jeffrey Elmore (a teacher) in a misguided EdNC.org op-ed last summer entitled “Governor’s budget veto creates uncertainty for students, teachers, and schools.”
After five consecutive years of pay increases for our teachers, including over 9% in the past two years, this budget includes an additional 3.9% over the next two years with step increases and raises ranging from $500 to $2,600. The budget even includes two bonuses of $500 each for our most veteran teachers.
Lawmakers like Tim Moore and Phil Berger point to raises given mostly to the lower rungs of the pay scale and then boast that the “average” pay raise for all teachers is now higher. And with all of that NC is still %16 percent behind the national average.
Those lawmakers also point to the NC teacher average salary as being over $53,000 for the first time ever and shout about how that is a sign of their commitment to teachers. What they forget to tell you is that in that figure are local supplements that they do not contribute to and the salaries of all of the veteran teachers who have the very graduate degree pay that was abolished for newest teachers.
In fact, with the current teacher salary scale that has been proposed for this year (and the minimal raises compared to Gov. Cooper’s proposal), there is no way to sustain that average salary, especially after veteran teachers begin to retire or leave the profession.
In late 2018, Wall Street Journal reported that teachers were leaving the profession at the highest rates since the Great Recession. And if you have been paying attention to this state for the last decade, it makes sense.
In fact, many news outlets reported on it. From Fortune in the December 28th, 2018 report “America Is Losing Its Teachers at a Record Rate”:
Frustrated by little pay and better opportunities elsewhere, public school teachers and education employees in the United States are quitting their jobs at the fastest rate on record.
During the first 10 months of the year, public educators, including teachers, community college faculty members, and school psychologists, quit their positions at a rate of 83 per 10,000, Labor Department figures obtained by The Wall Street Journal show. That’s the highest rate since the government started collecting the data in 2001. It’s also nearly double the 48 per 10,000 educators who quit their positions in 2009, the year with the lowest number of departures.
According to the report, teachers are leaving for a variety of reasons. Unemployment is low, which means there are other, potentially more lucrative opportunities elsewhere. Better pay, coupled with tight budgets and, in some cases, little support from communities could also push educators to other positions.
From Axios on Dec. 28th, 2018:
Teachers and public education employees in the U.S. quit at the fastest rate ever recorded in 2018, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The big picture: Historically low unemployment could be the cause, as Americans expect “they can find something better,” per the Journal. But there were also a string of teacher protests around the country this year over pay and poor conditions. 83 of every 10,000 public educators quit in the first 10 months of 2018, which is the highest rate since records began in 2001, the Journal notes.
While those reports talk about the nation as a whole, NC is no different. In fact, if one looks at what has happened in the past few years, one could make the argument that lawmakers in Raleigh want to have this teacher shortage.
It would create a less-expensive teacher workforce who will all have no career-status or little chance to earn over $53K a year in the current salary schedule with the expectation that fewer will retire as teachers (therefore less money to be paid out in pensions).
It would create a less vocal teacher force because teachers will have no due-process rights and would not be able to speak up for public schools.
And a profession that will have high turnover and less respect will be more easily controlled; therefore, outcomes can be more controlled and the need for profiteering reforms becomes a self-fulfilled prophecy.
In fact, North Carolina might be the biggest laboratory for ALEC-aligned “reform” in the past nine years.
But just focus on teacher turnover and the shortage that the Wall Street Journal first reported. And then look at this:
There is one of these signs in Winston-Salem on Highway 52 going south toward Lexington. It’s literally right past Winston-Salem State University which has a very good teacher preparation program.
Winston-Salem also has three other institutions of higher learning that train teachers: Salem College, Piedmont International, and Wake Forest University. In fact, public schools within ten miles of that very billboard will have student teachers from all of those schools and from App State and UNCG this spring.
Now look at this from Dane West’s post on his blog History With Mr. West this past summer:
As of July 23rd, which is approximately one month before school starts for most traditional calendar schools there are 7,228 openings. The list is below. I’m including ALL open positions, because as we know it takes all those positions to properly support our students. This includes coaches, substitutes, transportation, administration and central office people as long as they are listed through the same platform as teachers.
West even broke down all of the vacancies for each LEA on his post according to nc.teachermatch.org, the official site for all school system vacancies.
That screenshot above was for the WSFCS system. The billboard above is in that system. It had over 200 unfilled positions at the beginning of the school year. There were over 7,000 statewide.
Just this past week, over 40 teacher positions vacancies were filled – by school technology and subject coaches from our Central Office. Yes, people who provide important support to all WSFCS schools were told on a Thursday afternoon that they were to be in a classroom the following morning as full-time teachers in schools that had existing teacher vacancies never filled. They got a 48-hour notice out of nowhere.
Now think of these actions over the last nine years:
- Teacher Pay
- Removal of due-process rights for new teachers
- Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed
- Push for Merit Pay
- “Average” Raises
- Health Insurance and Benefits Changes
- Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE)
- Revolving Door of Standardized Tests
- Less Money Spent per Pupil When Adjusted For Inflation
- Removal of Caps on Class Sizes
- Sacrificing of Specialties in Elementary Schools
- Jeb Bush School Grading System
- Cutting Teacher Assistants
- Opportunity Grants
- Unregulated Charter School Growth
- For-Profit Virtual Charter Schools
- Innovative School District
- Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program And Now Its Smaller Version
And we need SB599 to fulfill teacher shortages? (Oh, by the way, Rep. Elmore championed that very bill as a teacher who actually was a NC Teaching Fellow. There he is on the left.)
It is not coincidental.
It’s a deliberate plan.