Editorial: Token Payment Won't Close Teacher Pay Gap

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The News and Observer criticizes Lt. Gov. Forest's promotion of a new vanity license plate that he says would help give teachers a raise. Instead of cheap gimmicks, we need lawmakers to come up with a real plan to raise teacher pay to the national average. Taxpayers are already doing their part, now it's up to the politicians. 

From the editorial,

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest wants to give new meaning to the term “teacher’s license.” He wants the state to issue special “I-support-teachers” license plates with the proceeds going to boost teacher salaries. What’s next? A cake sale at the legislative cafeteria? Maybe a car wash at the Governor’s Mansion?

Forest no doubt means well, but his proposal serves only to illustrate how clueless conservatives like himself are about teacher pay. North Carolina’s public school teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation. They are frustrated by the Republican-led General Assembly’s stingy allocations and deceptive approaches to raising pay. Many are quitting. As the economy improves and more options open, the departures will increase.

People don’t need to improve teacher pay by handing over $50 for a plate that attests to their support. All taxpayers are already supporting teachers. It’s up to legislators to put the proper share of tax dollars into teacher salaries.

Forest would put the license plate proceeds into the North Carolina Education Endowment Fund he created last May. The fund also seeks contributions from individuals and corporations. That’s fine, but it’s no substitute for the state’s meeting its obligation to pay teachers adequately.

Unless the state makes a commitment to increasing teacher salaries to a competitive level, many of its teachers are going to take off for states that do. Then the state’s existing license plates also will carry a message about North Carolina’s support for teachers – first in flight. 


  1. Jane M. Dagenhart's avatar
    Jane M. Dagenhart
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    I am a retired North Carolina teacher with 35 years of experience.<br /> <br /> North Carolina is losing experienced teachers at a much greater rate then anyone cares to count. Thousands are retiring before they intended to do so because it is not economically feasible to stay on. These experts have lost their longevity pay, have not gotten a raise in seven years, and see no hope of a raise in the future. (The .o1% raise given to teachers with 30 years of experience is a morbid joke.) These teachers are welcomed at private schools and out of state schools because of their experience and expertise. They are not, however, counted in the numbers of "teacher flight." I, personally, know of six teachers from my school who have made these moves. <br /> <br /> A 27% drop in enrollment in our universities' schools of education has occurred this year. Where are the new teachers going to come from? Certainly not from other states. When I left teaching, I was at the top of North Carolina's teacher salary scale. In the state of Maryland, a teacher with seven years of experience makes that amount.<br /> <br /> I was not counted in the "teacher flight" numbers because I had to leave after developing Severe Anxiety Disorder due to the lack of discipline at my school. I was literally afraid to return after Christmas break, 2013. I also had most all of the horrible physical aliments that can accompany this disorder. Although some have been resolved, some I will live with the rest of my life. I wonder how many other teachers in this state have had to leave teaching for similar reasons.<br /> <br /> I'm sure state officials were aware of the officials from other states attending North Carolina teacher job fairs in Raleigh last summer. Some states, like Texas and Virginia were offering moving expenses. They were also offering contracts on the spot. Had I been in my 20s, I would have been on my way. <br /> <br /> Teachers do not choose this profession to get rich. We know that will not happen. Teaching is a calling. We do it because we want to make a difference. Most of us would be unhappy doing anything else. I have never owned a new car. Eight years ago I considered myself middle class. The year before I left teaching, a new set of towels for my bathroom was a luxury item.<br /> <br /> Testing and testing preparation now takes 20 to 30 instructional days from the high school year. Students are spending up to 16% of their year on mandatory testing. Imagine the frustration of a child with a 75 IQ and discalcula who has taken algebra 1 three of four times facing that end of course test yet again. It is absurd. Unfortunately, they must.<br /> <br /> Finally, North Carolina officials need to realize that businesses and industries do not move to states whose educational systems are 49th in the county. So much for "Carolina Comeback."
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