Two teacher households struggle to survive in North Carolina

Last week, a local news station in Wilmington reported that a teacher of the year candidate quit his job because he could not support a family with his and his wife’s teaching salaries.

Richie Brown and his wife, Kristina, are both teachers in Brunswick County. The couple were hoping to have another child and realized they couldn’t do it with the income from their teaching jobs.

Brown told WWAY-TV, “I was about to be a seventh-year teacher, and I would be paid the same as I was as a second-year teacher.”

“When you get into education,” said Brown, “you know you’re not going to become a millionaire. I wasn’t getting into this because of the money, but you still expect to be compensated fairly.”

It’s not the first time I’ve heard about two teacher households struggling to get by in North Carolina.

At this month’s meeting of the State Board of Education, teacher of the year Darcy Grimes told fellow board members that she had received a shocking letter from a couple who are both teachers in the state.

Grimes said that the couple had recently been denied a mortgage for a modest home because the bank was concerned about two aspects of their mortgage application: the effective decline in their income over the past five years thanks to stagnant salaries, and the fact that teachers will now be employed on a contractual basis in North Carolina.

North Carolina’s teachers have received only one pay increase of 1.2 percent during the past seven years, while seeing their health care premiums rise.

The state legislature jettisoned teacher tenure last month in favor of 1, 2, or 4 year contracts, which are likely to be renewable depending on students’ outcomes.


  1. Bendal

    August 19, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    So it begins; banks won’t loan teachers money because their job prospects are no longer stable and their income is dropping thanks to rising health care premiums and lack of salary increases. What’s next, banks not loaning teachers any money for the same reason? Like the couple in the article, they’ll either drop out of the teaching profession altogether or move to another state where they get paid better. Hard to see that this is the legislature’s intention, but maybe it is.

  2. Alex

    August 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    My only question is did they not know what teacher salaries were before they got into the profession ? None of this has been a recent development. I knew this fact 20 years ago which is why I didn’t get into education.

  3. Kelly

    August 19, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    @Alex, it’s not the fact that they want to get rich, it’s the fact that their salary is not even keeping up with inflation. 1.2% raise TOTAL over the last 6 years…gas has more than doubled in that time. As has milk. Most other goods, if the price per package hasn’t gone up, it’s because the packaging has gotten smaller. In the last 2 years (my husband is a teacher, so I know first hand), our health insurance has gone from a $20 co-pay to a $35 co-pay. Our premiums have increased over 10% and that was despite the fact that we switched to a higher deductible plan. The rate on our prescriptions (preferred) has also increased 20%. I don’t care how you look at the math…1.2% TOTAL will NEVER cover the increase in the cost of living over the last 6 years. And don’t forget the mandatory .5% furlough in 2012 that seems to be forgotten. So is it really even 1.2%?

  4. Ken Glick (EEI)

    August 19, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    The couple in the article may have had undisclosed financial reasons that they need to quit their chosen profession for more lucrative work. Maybe they were in a lot of debt or something else but they new what they were getting into when they became teachers in North Carolina. Besides, I thought local school boards deciding teacher salaries not the governor and legislators in Raleigh.

  5. Anne

    August 19, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    @Ken, no teacher salaries are decided on the state level. Supplements are decided by local school boards and that varies. Some counties do not even give supplements. I should know because this is my 16 year in the field of education. Both my husband and I work and have part-time jobs and it’s still difficult financially. I knew I would never be rich, I just want to be able to work my one job and pay all of my bills on time. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

  6. Brock

    August 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    I think if you look at the actual State budget (available online) you’ll see teacher salaries as part of the legislation.

    Yes, the couple mentioned “new [sic] what they were getting into.” But, expecting not to be paid well is different than expecting to be paid LESS for hard work.

    It seems obvious that the GOP is acting against good public education in this State. I sure would like to know why. It seems obvious that a well-educated population is better for the economy, but they would rather have a population that doesn’t know the difference between “new” and “knew.”

  7. Mavis

    August 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Will the Governor stop denying that education has been cut if even the banks acknowledge it?

  8. Alex

    August 19, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    It’s funny but the real joke here is on Brock who obviously doesn’t know the difference himself between ” knew and new ” My grandfather used to say if you don’t know what you’re talking about, don’t publicize it.

  9. Jack

    August 19, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Fact is that teachers are being driven out of their chosen profession and being treated as though they were stupid in the first place for choosing the teaching profession. If such were being done to pharmaceutical manufacturers or computer companies in NC I wonder what would happen? However, NC, as a whole, doesn’t seem to care one way or another about the state’s quality of education. After all the majority voted in the public officials who passed laws to dismantle the public school system and now we has to live with the results of their votes.

  10. Steve

    August 19, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    It’s disgusting what NC is paying to teach our children ! I recently took my niece to see a local college and tuition is 38,900 a year, they mostly produce teachers and nurses ! if one was to go there to become a teacher they would spend 140,000 on education to earn $28,000 a year !!! Student loans would be payed off maybe by the time you retire ! Not to mention NC makes you take continuing education classes to keep your job at the teachers own expense !!! I’m so glad my kids have four legs !!!

  11. JL

    August 19, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    @Alex: Don’t you know what “sic” means? You’re making fun of someone who was not making an error.

    And to answer that earlier point, yes, it’s true–teaching has never been a high-paying position. But that does not mean that a) the folks who do it do not deserve more and b) that they should not be paid at least enough to make ends meet. The higher insurance premiums, combined with inflation, combined with the fact that they’re not getting any increases basically means they’re making LESS than they used to. Is that how we want to continue? Because let me clue you in to something–if we lose all our teachers, we’re going to not have much of a state to be proud of anymore.

    I’m not saying we need to pay them some sort of radical amount, and that’s not what they’re asking for. But for the love of God, at least keep them in the running. We cannot afford not to.

  12. david esmay

    August 19, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    My grandfather used to say “Republicans are stupid, their whole ideology is based on hypocrisy, exclusion, and greed.”

  13. dFX

    August 19, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    1) The STATE sets the baseline salaries which are then published each year by NC DPI. Local districts may, at their choosing and ability, supplement that salary with an additional amount set locally. Anyone can look up the salary schedules all the way back to 1996-97 at www. ncpublicschools. org/ fbs /finance/ salary/ (remove spaces).

    2) Alex – yes, they knew 6 years ago what the salary would be. What they did not know was how the salaries would be frozen AND the step increases as well. Look at the salary schedules for the last 7 years and note for yourself how the step raise has been pushed up time and again. Nor did they know what would happen to insurance premiums, copays and deductibles. It is a reasonable expectation to receive an increase in salary over time, generally each year (the annual raise). That was the norm; a norm since tossed in the trash for the teachers of NC.

    3) Ken – we can NOT conjecture as to unknown factors in the bank’s decision. All we CAN do is comment up the reasons the bank DID give: declining income and contractual basis for employment. Both of these speak to what has been happening to teachers in NC over the past several years. Their income has declined. Some estimates say over a 10% decline. They are now, thanks to the most recent legislation, stripped of career status and turned into “at will” contractual employees thereby severely diminishing their job stability in the eyes of the bank. At how many jobs do you know of that you are given a guarantee of employment for just 10 months and then it will be a carp shoot if you get a new contract for another 10 months to begin 2 months after the end of the current contract? That IS the new reality for teachers.

    4) Alex – must you cast aspersions? Doing so undermines the strength of your argument. It was not Brock who made the error of “new” instead of “knew”. He quoted correctly and correctly marked the error with [sic] to indicate the original quote was in error. Do you not know about professional writing and use of [sic] in quotations? Further, it is a grammatical faux pas to add a blank space before an item of end punctuation as you did in “…got into the profession ? [sic]”.

    Brock’s final comment: “but they would rather have a population that doesn’t know the difference between ‘new’ and ‘knew’” is telling. You bemoan his supposed lack of ability to know the difference and miss the sarcasm regarding the devolving state of education in NC; that we are funding schools so poorly, paying teachers so poorly that soon: (following purposefully incorrect for satirical political effect)

    dem dar cuntry boyz be gettin an edumacation in reedn wrritttn and figerin n it dun em rite gud.

    ‘Twill not be long before all of education is privatized and reduced to the lowest, least expensive level of quality if the current political party in power continues its current course of action.

  14. Ginny

    August 19, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Brock and Ken, when the couple in the article “went into education” the state salary scale included a step increase in salary every year. THIS NOT true now. Also NC teacher’s average salary was higher than many states not near the bottom as it is today. No they did not know what they were getting into. We should be outraged that teachers are paid so poorly. In most jobs you can work hard and do it for long hours and you will be promoted, paid for your extra hours or receive a raise. This is not true for the people who are educating your children or grandchildren. How will NC ever recruit and retain the best and brightest teachers if they know that their job will not enable them to even purchase a home?

  15. John Morrison

    August 19, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Teaching is now just a “gap gig” you do before law, med or biz school. It is no longer a career. I strongly advise my students to stay away, especially from North Carolina.

  16. Karan Duggar

    August 19, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    Alex do you know what [sic] means? Looks like the REAL joke is on YOU.

  17. NoGOPinNC

    August 19, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    And Alex comes in from left field with another moronic statement….thanks for the laugh.

  18. EH

    August 19, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    The state pays teachers a base salary, which is the majority of it. Local school boards give a supplement to that salary.

  19. LayintheSmakDown

    August 20, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Too bad that high tax liberal county does not see fit to supplement their teachers in an appropriate way. This is a local decision that should be taken up with their commissioners and school board. They need to petition their representatives to those bodies to make a true difference.

  20. Alex

    August 20, 2013 at 10:10 am

    The Latin adverb sic (“thus”; in full: sic erat scriptum, “thus was it written”)[1] added immediately after a quoted word or phrase (or a longer piece of text), indicates that the quotation has been transcribed exactly as found in the original source, complete with any erroneous spelling or other nonstandard presentation.

    Brock was trying to discredit what I was saying by implying that I had made an error in my posting. To read anything else in what he was saying is giving him more credit than I do.

  21. gregflynn

    August 20, 2013 at 10:39 am

    The user “Brock” was responding to the user “Ken Glick (EEI)” who said:

    “Maybe they were in a lot of debt or something else but they new what they were getting into when they became teachers in North Carolina.” (sic)

    The joke is on you “Alex”. Your comments have gotten way off topic, though perhaps they are relevant to your own behavior.

  22. love my state

    August 20, 2013 at 11:04 am

    pay no attention to him, alex is a right wing nut job who spends his time licking the boots of the powers that be in raleigh in hopes that they’ll return the confederate flag to the statehouse.

  23. Frank J Torchia, Jr.

    August 20, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    The problem with the educational system in NC is… Frankly it is to big. Each county should be responsible for its own finance And it should also be broken down even more. Wake County is entirely to big of a school district. Are class sizes better for education being bigger or smaller? Left Wing, Right Wing it does not matter. It has been 7 years since a raise. And please don’t throw out 1.2% to me. “Nothing from nothing is still nothing!” They need to put teachers on a different pay scale from all state employees and until they do so… good luck! It it such a shame because Wake County and the surrounding counties are so beautiful yet we can’t recruit or retain our good and great teachers.

    Best of luck,

    Firefighter Husband
    Teacher Wife
    2 Children
    4 Jobs
    “Times are tough”

  24. Hannah

    August 20, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    This isn’t just a North Carolina issue. I teach for one of the wealthier counties in Virginia, Fairfax county, and after teaching for 5 years I still make less than I did my first year.
    I agree that no teacher goes into it for the money but I can’t even afford a 300 sq. ft studio apartment in the DC area with my salary.

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