Everyone knows that students cannot receive a good education without good teachers. And yet, North Carolina has consistently been ranked as one of the worst states for teachers. Budget cuts across the state have made it difficult for teachers to earn a living wage, let alone adequately teach their students. This results in a high teacher turnover, as more and more teachers are choosing to leave the state for better pay or to teach at schools with better facilities.
Joyce Farrow, a teacher from Charlotte, North Carolina, taught in two other states before moving to North Carolina. “Educators in North Carolina are not paid nearly enough for the jobs we do, nor the education we have attained,” she says. Despite the fact Joyce has over 20 years of experience and two masters degrees; she is paid less here in North Carolina than when she first started teaching. This is just another reason North Carolina suffers from such a high teacher turnover.
Erin Meadows is a teacher from Asheville, North Carolina who is now pursuing a higher education in her field. “I enrolled in my first graduate class the summer the General Assembly revoked the increased salary for teachers with advanced degrees,” she says. “By the time I finish my master’s [in 2018], I’ll have invested $15,000 in becoming a better teacher with no way to recoup that money as the salary schedule currently exists.”
Amy Bauer, a teacher from Sanford, North Carolina works at a school that is already lacking in facilities. “I teach in a trailer. We don’t have running water, let alone bathrooms out here, so we must brave the weather outside to take bathroom breaks. This is particularly challenging when it rains,” she says.
Amy, like a lot of teachers across the state, has had to supply things for her classroom out of her own pocket. “The trailers don’t have coat racks, so I had to build my own and mount them to the walls. With all of this, it is difficult to feel a sense of accomplishment. There is always so much left undone, and so much more that I wish I could do.”
Teachers are not the only ones affected by North Carolina’s lack of dedication to education. Teacher assistants share a majority of the work, yet receive less in return. John Mycroft, an Asheville resident, is married to a teacher assistant. “One group that is always ignored is the teacher assistant. They had a pay cut about 4 years ago and other than that their pay hasn’t changed in about 10 years,” he says. “Meanwhile they are expected to change kids’ diapers, insert catheters, deal with violent kids and all manner of unpleasant tasks that should not be expected of anyone in a school.”
If North Carolina’s education system is going to improve, we need to start putting teachers first. That starts with getting teacher pay to the national average, but that’s just a first step. We need to support and train educators throughout their careers, reward them for professional development and provide them with the classroom resources required to make sure students thrive.