What was the point?
On the surface, Gov. Pat McCrory's Feb. 10 announcement that teachers across the state are receiving long overdue pay raises seemed like good news.
Teachers in North Carolina are underpaid, unappreciated and too often overlooked by the General Assembly. School systems, including Thomasville City Schools, face uncertain futures heading into next year due to budget cuts and the expiration of state and federal funding.
A November audit revealed that TCS could face teacher layoffs in 2015 if more money is not made available. Many within the school system are well aware of this and that doesn't exactly lend itself to a comfortable work environment.
Since the start of the Great Recession, and more than likely well before that, teachers have been asked to do more with less, spend their own money on supplies and meet ever-changing educational standards a normal person would need a compass to navigate.
They're asked to do all of this as North Carolina ranks 47th in the country in terms of teacher salaries. Public school teachers have not received a raise since 2008 and most, if not all of them, are doing more every day due to the elimination of assistants and other support staff.
And these are the people responsible for educating our children.
According to McCrory’s press conference at Ragsdale High School, some teachers will receive a 14 percent raise. The result is that North Carolina will vault a few other surrounding states which also underpay their teachers. Within two years, new teachers will start out making $35,000 a year.
Again, on the surface, it seems like great news. Teachers are getting a raise.
What can be wrong with that?
The fine print tells a different story.
In reality, less than half of the teachers in North Carolina can expect to see more in their paychecks. Approximately 70 out of the more than 200 teachers in TCS will benefit from this.
That’s about 30 percent.
What about the other 70 percent?
McCrory's announced pay raise only includes teachers with five years experience or less. Yes, that is correct — fewer than five years of experience.
Within two years, it's not only conceivable but probable that teachers with 10 years’ experience will make less than someone just walking in the door.
This makes very little sense.
Why would the governor reward new teachers while ignoring the ones who have stayed the course during historically challenging economic times? Teachers for the past five years have sacrificed in almost every possible way for their students, and it was the veteran leadership that kept this battled-ridden ship North Carolina calls an education system afloat.
Only experienced teachers with a passion for education and a unwavering desire to provide the best for their students could have weathered such a storm.
Thomasville is a perfect example.
Chair City teachers did everything possible to keep economics out of the classroom. I never heard a teacher complain about insufficient supplies when budget restraints were obvious.
Thomasville teachers have every reason to complain now.
Giving raises only to new teachers is a slap in the collective faces of teachers across the state. For a teacher with six, seven or eight years of experience to watch someone new walk in the door and make more money is insulting.
McCrory said the goal was to attract new teachers to the state.
What about the ones who currently are here? What are we saying to them? Thanks for all you've done, but this rookie is going to make more than you?
What experienced teachers did get recently is the news that their tenure could go away in 2018 thanks to Senate Bill 402. Teachers can exchange their tenure for contracts and receive an additional $500 per year over the next four years, meaning a teacher who makes $40,000 in 2014 will make $42,500 in 2018.
The additional money doesn't even put a North Carolina teacher’s base pay in the top half nationally.
This announcement may have looked good on paper and made for some nice pictures of McCrory shaking hands with a big smile on his face, but it didn't do a whole lot for a majority of teachers.
What was the point, exactly?
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.