Choking back tears, one teacher of the year attending the final day of House Education Week said that morale at her school was the lowest she’d seen in her 16 years of employment. At her school merit pay, a subject that teachers, principals and superintendents pointed to as a great inhibitor of collaboration, pitted teachers against each other as they fought to win just a little bit more money to add to their paltry salaries.
Teacher pay, a lack of professional development opportunities, tenure and severe budget cuts were just some of the topics broached by teachers in the House chamber on Thursday.
The link between poor pay for teachers and retention of the best and brightest was on full display as one teacher of the year spoke about her small paycheck and two kids to support. “It’s really hard not to search for a new job every summer. And I love my kids and my career.”
Cumberland County teacher of the year Angie Parker raised an important point about digital textbooks, asking what the plans are for ensuring students who don’t have access to computers or the internet have access to these textbooks.
Kim Abrams of Forsyth County Public Schools raised her concerns about the education lottery, wondering why seemingly so much money was spent on advertising. With all of the different commercials she has seen on television, she figured she could have equipped her classroom with many laptops by now.
House Speaker Thom Tillis, presiding over the session, provided much of the same information to the teachers that he did to superintendents and principals earlier in the week. Education funding was expected to be flat for the upcoming year, and so he expected school districts to be creative and flexible in how they spend their monies and to look for places to save or spend more efficiently – and that they would be rewarded for doing so. Teachers would also have access to the working groups Tillis commissioned earlier in the week with the superintendents so that feedback from all three groups would be harmonious.