After Gov. Pat McCrory and state legislative leaders announced their pay raise plan for new and less-experienced teachers last week, a pair of veteran teachers from Davie County (who also happen to be married) felt compelled to respond. Here is their open letter:
Dear Governor McCrory,
We moved here in 1998 from New York. North Carolina promised us a chance at living our dreams and becoming teachers. Although it was difficult, we moved 600 miles south, away from family and friends, away from the comforts of home, to start a life in Davie County. Culture shock aside, things went well. We assimilated quickly and seamlessly became crucial parts of our school and community’s culture. Both of us were elected Teacher of the Year for our schools, became National Board Certified Teachers, and achieved our Masters Degrees from North Carolina Universities. Life was good. Each of us became respected members of our school. We bought a modest house in a new neighborhood and in a few years two children were born.
We made a good living, were able to take small vacations and laugh. We could fill up our tanks and buy groceries without having to constantly check to be sure we could afford these necessities.
We didn’t expect to become rich doing the job we love to do. We knew from the very beginning that the payoff in education is not the savings account, but in the touched lives and future investment. We knew we would always need to balance our checkbooks and account for the summers off, but we were okay with that. We were able to live our lives, put two children in daycare, and still invest a little bit for the future.
Sixteen years later, things are different. Now going to the grocery store causes the pacing of floors and hand wringing. No longer can we fill up our car’s gas tank without thinking about what we might have to give up if we do. Today, we had an honest discussion about downsizing our house, not because one of us lost a job, not because one of us was demoted (on the contrary, both of us actually have MORE responsibility and job expectations grow daily), but because we can no longer make it on a salary that has not come close to growing alongside the cost of daily living. Gas prices have gone from $1.02 a gallon to $3.25 a gallon since we moved here in 1998. Milk prices are through the roof. The cost of daily living rises, yet teacher’s salaries in North Carolina stay stagnant. Teachers have not moved up a pay scale since 2008, with only 1.2% increase in salary in the past 6 years.
Your announcement this week about raising beginning teacher salary was a step in the right direction. However, what message does this send to teachers who have already dedicated countless hours to the children of North Carolina’s future? To teachers who have shaped YOUR life? We are not sure what the intended message is, but the received message is that our contribution is not important, that we are antiquated and easily replaced. ALL teachers need a pay increase, especially teachers that bring in years of experience and much needed leadership to every faculty.
This, for us, is the first step in this fight for what we feel is right. Please consider the priorities your cabinet has outlined as important for North Carolina’s future.
Thank you for your time,
Kimberly and Jeremy Brooks
Davie County Educators