There are many on West Jones Street in Raleigh who are deathly afraid of when teachers come together to fight for public schools, and they are especially scared of the North Carolina veteran teacher.
Interestingly enough, you can still find veteran NC teachers in public schools. Many have graduate degrees in education and other vital fields, have due-process rights, and have survived many government-driven initiatives to change curriculum, testing, and evaluation protocols. These veteran teachers have also withstood the failed initiatives of merit pay, No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top. Currently many are weathering, but still educating effectively, continued reforms in the wake of school voucher programs, ridiculous school measurement instruments, and lowered funding. Some even belong to education advocacy associations like NCAE.
And having these veteran NC teachers in our schools is vital to our students and our communities. Furthermore, they pave the way for newer teachers. If there are no more veteran NC teachers, then the new NC teachers will not transition into veterans themselves.
However, many profit-minded political poachers are lurking in legislative chambers hoping to alter the environment for these veteran teachers in hopes to prevent more from coming into fruition. Why? Because veteran teachers with due-process rights have the ability to provide a check and balance for the public school system like none other against the forces of personalities and profit that are mixed in NC’s politics.
And while there are still many veteran NC teachers in schools now, they are lower in number than five years ago, and those numbers will continue to dwindle if current conditions stay in place.
It will get to a point where the veteran NC teacher will be no longer. They will either go to other states or transition into another profession or early retirement.
They will be extinct. And our schools, students, and communities will suffer severely from that.
What actions have been taken to help eradicate our veteran teachers and keep new teachers from becoming veterans in North Carolina? They are many and they are deliberate.
- Removal of due-process rights. At one time the NC General Assembly took away due-process rights for all teachers. It was ruled unconstitutional by the court system in the case for those veteran teachers who already got those rights when they became fully certified. However, newer teachers in the profession will not get due-process rights in North Carolina. That will surely inhibit those teachers from advocating loudly for schools in the future for fear of reprisal.
And those teachers who had due-process rights may be retiring earlier than expected because of conditions.
New NC teachers cannot fully become veteran NC teachers if not allowed to stand up for themselves and the students they teach.
- Removal of Graduate Degree pay bumps. As with due-process rights, graduate degree pay bumps have been abolished. What once represented the only way (besides National Board Certification) to gain a promotion in pay was to get a relevant graduate degree. While many have argued that teachers with graduate degrees are not more effective, that argument is usually made by people who stand to profit from controlling teacher pay (https://www.ednc.org/2016/04/22/why-teachers-believe-advanced-degrees-matter/). New North Carolina teachers cannot become veteran North Carolina teachers if not allowed to work on becoming more qualified.
- Salary Scale “adjustments”. This current GOP-led NCGA put into place a new salary schedule a few years ago that literally tops out at a little over $53 K as the highest salary a new teacher could ever make in a thirty-year career. While many in the NCGA claim that salaries have gone up for teachers they lock in on a trivial word – “average.” It’s true that average salaries have gone up, but really only for the newer teachers. Veteran teachers did not receive these kinds of raises.
Besides, it is easier to pay three new teachers than two veteran teachers if you are only looking at the bottom line for salary. However, think of the mentoring and the effect on student achievement coming from those veteran teachers, especially if they are respected by the state.
Oh, and that doesn’t even begin the discussion of the removal of longevity pay, which in NC only applies to teachers.
New teachers in North Carolina cannot become veteran teachers in NC if they cannot make a salary that allows for them to support a family and/or have a mortgage.
- Removal of class size caps. When the legislation removed the caps on class size, it helped to balloon the number of students in a class for teachers. That applies to all teachers, k-12. Some systems made the switch to block scheduling as well for their high schools. Simply put, teachers are teaching more classes with more kids with less planning time and collaboration opportunities. If you remember NC’s “Class Size Chaos,” then you will be familiar with the unfounded claims by the NCGA that “extra” funds were given to school systems to help pay for more space and teachers to create smaller classes. Those claims were lies.
Also put into consideration the removal of funds for professional development and teachers are forced to either get re-certified in the summer on their own time and money, or they have to squeeze that professional development into the school year which takes away time from those bigger classes.
New teachers in North Carolina cannot become veteran teachers in NC if they are forced to teach so many kids that it takes away from the student/teacher dynamic crucial to learning.
- Too many standardized tests. The only thing a citizen has to do is to see how many tests are administered in a public school for the sake of measuring student achievement – EOG’s, EOCT’s, PSAT, PLAN, Pre-ACT, ACT, AP, ASVAB, etc.,etc.,etc.
And that doesn’t even touch the time needed to review for the exams or to take teacher made exams.
New teachers in North Carolina cannot become veteran teachers in NC if not allowed to have a say into what is on the test and how those tests are graded.
- Inconsistent teacher evaluation programs. Three words – Value Added Measures.
New teachers in North Carolina cannot become veteran teachers in NC if their effectiveness is measured arbitrarily.
- Lack of resources and less money per pupil. This has been explained so many times, but it can’t be stated enough. –
New teachers in North Carolina cannot become veteran teachers in NC if they constantly are asked to do more with less and watch as charter schools and vouchers suck more money from traditional public schools.
- School grading system. This letter grading system used by the state literally shows how poverty in our state affects student achievement. What the state proved with this grading system is that it is ignoring the very students who need the most help — not just in the classroom, but with basic needs such as early childhood programs and health-care accessibility. These performance grades also show that schools with smaller class sizes and more individualized instruction are more successful, a fact that lawmakers willfully ignore when it comes to funding our schools to avoid overcrowding.
New teachers in North Carolina cannot become veteran teachers in NC if they are constantly being told that their schools are “failing” when they actually show substantial student growth.
Those are eight of the more visible ways that the NCGA has tried to alter the environment to eventually exterminate the North Carolina veteran teacher. To a certain extent, it has worked.
And there is no telling what this school year during a pandemic will do to the teaching ranks.