The NC House unveiled its proposed education budget today. A provision on page 34 of the budget would deny personal leave taken on a school day unless a substitute teacher can be secured to take the job.
The ‘Ensure Sufficient Staffing for Public Schools’ section of the budget would change the General Statute to read that, once a local school board adopts its calendar, it cannot alter that calendar except in cases of “a severe weather condition, energy shortage, utility failure, public health crisis, school safety crisis, emergency related to a school building or school transportation, or act of God.”
On May 16, 2018, North Carolina educators who were fed up with years of terrible education policy put in personal days to march in Raleigh. The numbers were so high that 42 of 115 school districts were forced to close because they didn’t have enough substitutes to cover the absences. With more than 20,000 teachers marching to the state legislature, it was by far the largest organized political action by educators in North Carolina history.
After seeing very few of the changes we advocated for last year, we’re coming to Raleigh next Wednesday as well. As of right now, 29 school districts in North Carolina will be closed next week due to large numbers of teachers who have once again taken personal days to ask for legislators to change their priorities and put our students ahead of tax cuts for big corporations and wealthy individuals. The number of closures is sure to rise.
The new budget provision is clearly designed to prevent teachers from organizing in large numbers to advocate for public schools in this manner ever again.
Let’s review the goals of those thousands of educators who will be filling the streets of Raleigh on May 1:
- They include adequately addressing ratios for counselors, psychologists, nurses and social workers which are so far behind national standards that our students don’t have the support for their social and emotional health that they need and deserve.
- They include closing the Medicaid gap so health problems are less likely to be a barrier to our students’ learning.
- They include paying our custodians, bus drivers and cafeteria staff a living wage so they don’t have to work two or three jobs just to keep their lights on.
- They include restoring retiree health benefits so that our state employees don’t have to purchase their own private insurance when they are finished serving the people of North Carolina.
- And they include reversing policies which make it difficult for us to attract and retain excellent teachers to prepare our most precious resource, our children, for a successful and productive life.
Ideally, our elected officials would be listening to the very valid concerns of these constituents and working to correct the serious shortcomings in our education system that exist as a result of their public policy. The education budget would be a really great place to start.
Unfortunately, it appears that some of North Carolina’s state legislators would prefer to use our education budget to silence teachers who are unwilling to accept the continued underfunding of our public schools rather than working to significantly address the underfunding that brought us to this point. That’s a truly sad state of affairs.
Let’s talk about disrespect for teachers. A year ago I found my local state senator, Senator Joyce Krawiec, NC District 31, and spoke with her briefly about how as a young teacher I felt as though I needed to leave NC to make a livable wage. As a third year teacher I now make around $37k per year, and could hope to make $52k by retirement, or a little over $58k if I received my National Boards (no master’s pay for me if I were to get a master’s – NC canceled advanced degree pay several years ago). If I were to get a job in Houston, for contrast, I could expect to make a little over $60k as a third year teacher. That’s nearly 20% more as a beginning teacher than a 30 year NC teacher veteran.
I sent Senator Krawiec a follow up email, and here is part of her response:
“I am sorry that you feel you must leave North Carolina to continue teaching. I am a little confused. I’m not sure how long you’ve been teaching here, but you have seen several salary increases if you have been here a few years. You were aware of the salary structure when you began, and it has certainly improved. Why would you consider leaving after receiving more than you originally bargained for?”
Firstly, I find her response to be quite tone deaf. It seems to assume that money was my first priority when looking for a job. It was NOT, and still is not. My students and the opportunities for them to succeed are my first priority. However, a $25k raise cannot be lightly ignored. Of course I was aware of the salary structure when I began, and found it to be ridiculous then. I suppose part of me (probably my youthful naivete) thought that conditions would improve for teachers.
It has NOT meaningfully improved. The touted figures for median teacher pay by NC republicans are INCREDIBLY misleading. There is obvious manipulation – the median being higher than the 30 year salary base pay, anyone? There seems to have been a concerted effort to discourage veteran teachers (i.e., “more expensive teachers”) from continuing in the profession.
I suppose their effort is working. I am moving to Houston in July to pursue my masters and then find a job in the area. I am truly worried about NC education on a decade or so. Teacher program enrollment has been down for years now, and is only declining. Many rural and low income schools cannot find teachers to fill their open position. My own hometown high school has had several positions open all year.
It is truly disappointing.
I am so sorry that we are losing you to Houston, Phil. I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with hoping and believing that conditions will improve. That’s what keeps me and so many others pushing for the kinds of changes that we want to see. But you’re absolutely right when you say we have a long way to go, and nobody should fault you for making the right choice for yourself.