Married schoolteacher couple sends powerful letter to Gov. McCrory

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

 

30 Comments

  1. Erica Speaks

    February 17, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Wonderfully written and right on point! I could not agree with you more! I too am an experienced teacher here in NC and I just wrote something myself(bit.ly/1bCXxVu)about these same sentiments. The data on our accomplished teachers leaving North Carolina is grave indeed – please check the infographic on that post on the increasing loss of tenured, experienced teachers just like this couple.

  2. Johnny C Cozart

    February 17, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    I agree with the letter . This is where state pay raises must begin! Otherwise, we go backward! All citizens who are useful or successful can look to a teacher/teachers as the main reason ! Think about it!
    Johnny C Cozart

  3. Barbara Todd

    February 17, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    Thank you for writing the Governor. My husband went to Catawba College, with our Governor. Yet, my husband majored in education. He is a very dedicated professional who goes above and beyond the call of duty every single day. Due to the enormous increase if premiums in the state health plan, coupled with no pay step in years and lack of cost of living increase, he has brought home LESS income every year since 2008. We now have children in need of braces and in college. Our expenses are much higher now than in his early years of teaching. Four years ago, I was out of work due to cancer treatment and hospitalization. Our family of only four actually qualified for reduced lunch on his “veteran” teachers salary…. Our daughter who is in college now wants to teach, we would only agree if she double majored so that we know she has an “out” if educators’ pay does not improve. We just cannot trust that NC legislators will do the right thing. We do not want our daughter trapped in a career where she cannot make a decent living no matter where her heart is. I pray that things improve & hope that this Governor will find a way to make sure our state brings our teacher salaries up to a respectable level.

  4. Jenny McPherson

    February 17, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    I have worked with both Jeremy and Kim in Davie County Schools. They are both extremely talented educators and leaders. Much like Kim and Jeremy my husband and I decided to start our lives as educators in North Carolina, he’s from West Virginia and I’m from Ohio. We have both grown professionally and personally here. I have been the Student Services Professional of the Year as a School Counselor and my husband has been a Teacher of the Year. We both have also earned our National Board Certification. We are very happy with our profession and our life in North Carolina. However, we too, worry each month about groceries, gas, and debt we have acquired trying to meet some of the basic needs of our family. As a counselor I saw the direct impact the economy had on our middle and upper class families, I understood the need to freeze salaries. I have been a School a Counselor in North Carolina now for 12 years, I love my job. However, after continuous cuts in education, I’ve found myself wondering, if this continues will we be able to provide for our own children’s needs?

  5. Celina

    February 17, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    Teaching was my passion and my life. I couldn’t afford to stay in the profession even with a master’s degree so I had to get another job. It was a very hard decision for me but at the end of the day we have to pay our bills and put food on the table to eat. It still makes me sad our beat educators are being paid the lowest and are being forced out of the profession due to dismal salaries.

  6. Brandi Kraus

    February 18, 2014 at 12:43 am

    I appreciate the level-headed approach of these two obvious professionals. This idea of the new guy getting the break rather than the tried and true faithfuls is a frustrating notion. Companies do it all the time. New customer promotions, sign on bonuses, freebies, and discounts. This idea makes sense to draw the newby in, but what keeps the faithful? Only the faithful’s sense of duty and passion for their work. Certainly, our teachers need to be alloted more compensation as they show proven results. However, as a government employee, they sign on understanding that their wages will be dictated by tax revenues. Like it or not, fair or unfair, this is the said acceptance of a worker of the state. Interesting too, the examples given of how expensive gas and food are. Perhaps the tree that needs to be barked up are those responsible for the economic circumstances that result in those high prices. And I’m pretty sure that’s not Gov. McCrory’s doing, yet he’s accepted the burden of dealing with the consequences of others actions. Unlike the Federal bozos, states must balance their budgets; i.e. cannot spend more than they bring in. The General Assmebly does decide where to allot our state’s money. I think that’s where the petitioning might come back with the best results.

  7. Deborah Mason

    February 18, 2014 at 1:05 am

    I am a TA in an elementary school and my husband teaches in the high school . Not only have we not gotten cost of living raises, they have now taken six days of our annual leave time to make up ice/snow days. Really…… They have added 30 minutes to our instructional time with students; everyday in March ,but that does not count for any of the teachers makeup time. Think about this……would you in courage your child to become a teacher? I love my children and they make my day…….Would I pick this job again? Maybe if I was independently wealthy .

  8. sal leone

    February 18, 2014 at 9:46 am

    This was all done on purpose by our Governor. This is the old attack theory of divide and conquer. I knew there was a reason I did not vote for our Governor, he is as shady as a three dollar bill. I will not bring in the Duke Energy issue or his law firm job but he is shady. I can not picture two fulltime teachers working and still they qualify for food stamps, how does this happen in America. I cant picture working since 2008 without any pay increase, but yet the Governor wanted to redo his bathroom. I am running for NC House 62 and plan on attacking the anti collective bargaining law and increase pay for all teachers across the board.

  9. Courtney R

    February 18, 2014 at 10:07 am

    My husband and I are teachers in suburban Boston schools. I am from North Carolina and we have toyed with the idea of moving back since housing prices are much lower. In researching our salaries in the places we would want to live, we quickly realized we would take a combined $40,000 a year pay cut. We also realized that only housing prices were lower, and everything else was the same or a little more in North Carolina. I hope that North Carolina teachers will soon be compensated according to national averages. Crossing our fingers for you all.

  10. Angel

    February 18, 2014 at 10:33 am

    I appreciate that this letter was well-written without the use of hatred, name-calling and character assassination and I sympathize with your economic struggles, just as I do for those in other fields with the same issues. However, I must point out a few things. Governor McCroy has had nothing whatsoever to do with the cost of gas. At the end of the last presidential administration, gas was not much more than what you said you were paying in 1998 ($1.02) but has more than doubled during the current administration ($3.25). Nor have his actions been a factor in the staggering cost of groceries. This comes from ever-growing costs of doing business due to federal regulations, healthcare costs, etc. and is not a state-level issue. It’s the domino effect and we are all, no matter how we make a living, feeling the pain. Expecting the state to raise employees’ pay to match the fiscal irresponsibility and rapidly-increasing cost of the federal government is, well, a little unrealistic. I recently held a job doing what I loved as well. Like you, I wasn’t getting rich but was able to make ends meet somehow. I was told each year that I certainly deserved a raise but the company could not afford to give me one. No one else was getting one either and hadn’t for as many as ten years and more – not even cost of living. Eventually, I was laid off due to “economic downturn” and a year later the business closed its doors. I’m still looking for full-time employment. While I feel that you are passionate about your work and are a positive influence on those you effect (based on your accolades) there are many more like you in other fields who are underpaid and struggling. We can’t blame the cost of gas, groceries, or any other necessities on the governor; we can only ask that the governor do all in his power to grow the local economy so that pay raises for all employees in NC, not just gov’t. employees, can again become achievable without the risk of going out of business. It will take time, but so far the steps have been positive. Let’s hope the governor continues on this path.

  11. Jeremy Brooks

    February 18, 2014 at 11:40 am

    I am in no way insinuating that the Governor is responsible for the price of gas, bread or milk. Nor am I entirely laying the state of education in North Carolina at his feet. In fact, I stated that we haven’t had a raise in 6 years; many of those years were under the Perdue regime.
    What I am saying is that North Carolina undervalues education, especially public education. Recent initiatives and legislation have made this quite clear. Compare the salaries of teachers in NC with those across the country. You will find that we are in the bottom 5%. What message does this send? Superior teachers are being forced to make hard decisions about their future in this profession. Many are to the point where they are considering a career change. Do we want the best and most qualified people teaching our children? Apparently the powers that be do not.
    These are dire times; it would behoove us all to take a hard look at what is going on. The future of North Carolina depends on it.

  12. frank crump

    February 18, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    I agree that teachers should make more money because, of the Jobs that they do for our children.

  13. Jean

    February 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Don’t tell me he doesn’t have anything to do with gasoline prices. NC drivers pay a combined federal and state tax rate of 57.6 cents per gallon of gas. Our state tax of 39 cents per gallon is more than many other states pay for federal and state taxes combined. Virginia is 38.2; Tennessee 39.8; south Carolina 35.2 cents If I am not mistaken the present administration slapped 4 cents on in January. If it is anything you have to have, you can bet the present NC government is going to raise the taxes….including our food. His record is speaking loudly for itself.

  14. Susan

    February 18, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Angel, Do you have a Master’s Degree? A Bachelor’s Degree? If so, you can find another job that compensates you well. In my opinion, a person who has invested time and money into a degree should be able to make a decent living and not worry about a tank of gas.
    I made my children promise me they would never teach. If they were going to teach, I would not help them with college.
    When I was at my 30th year of teaching (and yes, teacher of the year, a highly qualified teacher,Who’s Who among American Teachers, and with a Master’s degree) my own children were fresh from college with Bachelor’s degrees. They all made 10 to 20k more than me, with all my experience. They also have enough vacation time that it doesn’t make teaching look tempting. Especially since Ms Perdue added 5 days to the school calendar, said the kids didn’t have to go to school on those days, and made the teachers go in and work those days for no extra pay. More work, no compensation.
    Now each of my children makes more than my husband and I made with our combined incomes. They are all under 30. In contrast, the young teachers I know make less than 30k a year. It’s disgusting that teachers are paid so poorly no matter how many years they have taught.
    Sadly, I would suggest that Kim or Jeremy leaves teaching to make a decent living, and one of them could remain at the job they love.
    It’s not fair that first year teachers would receive a ‘raise’ when there are many deserving teachers who have hung in there for years waiting for at least enough to buy a few tanks of gas.

  15. Elaine

    February 18, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    As a 30+ year teaching veteran, I’ve never seen morale this low among educators. Do our legislators know what we do daily? We don’t make a product that’s value can be measured by standardized tests and we don’t do our jobs in isolation. We teach children to problem solve and learn creatively and we work with a community of knowledgeable co-teachers and staff to give each child not only an education, but caring, support, confidence, and love. We don’t just depend on the top 25% of our staff to do this! Everyone has a vested interest in success. Public Education must be valued!

  16. TJTJTJ

    February 18, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    If you don’t like your pay find another job that pays better. The whining about public school salaries is getting old. It’s supply and demand. Salaries will rise when the school system can’t fill the jobs so either leave or quit complaining. The Governor is not obligated to increase your salary so you can buy gas or milk.

  17. Gina

    February 18, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    I was going to college for a Bachelors Degree in education until the budget cuts in 2011 sent me home. I saw first hand that for me to be able to support my family education was not the field I needed to go in. So I changed my major quick! I work with teachers everyday and yes they DESERVE a RAISE every year because what they do always out weighs their pay… it will never be enough!! They ALL need MORE MONEY!! I mean really do you know how children are behaving in schools today? Not to mention test scores. It’s all a teacher can do to keep the class under control and continue to TEACH in an over crowded classroom. I just wish for 3 months or longer the folks that are outside looking in would take a step inside and see what it really feels like. Things have changed folks and they have changed a lot! Just as the prices of food, gas, clothes etc. are increasing daily children’s behaviors in schools are getting worse. So therefore I say give them ALL a pay RAISE they very well DESERVE IT!!

  18. Carl Maxwell

    February 19, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Teachers should be thankful they still have a job, hours not cut, benefits not cut, and retirement not cut. Who pays teachers’ salaries? All us common folk that can’t find a full time job making more that $10 and hour.

  19. Keith

    February 19, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    I must take issue with Angel’s comment which read “At the end of the last presidential administration, gas was not much more than what you said you were paying in 1998 ($1.02) but has more than doubled during the current administration ($3.25).” While it is true that gas prices were low (around 1.80)in January 2009 when Mr. Obama took over, it is very misleading to suggest, as your statement does, that gas prices were always low under Mr. Bush. In fact the highest gas prices ever in our nations history were in the summer and fall of 2008 at well over $4.00 per gallon. So why did prices tumble between the fall of 2008 and January of 2009? It was due to the Bush-Cheney economic collapse that began in September 2008. While this was not Mr. McCrory’s fault, it was the policies of his party which favor wealthy bankers and hedge managers over the working class which led to the worst economy since the great depression. Are Democrats much better? Nope, Governor Purdue did nothing to help teachers during her tenure either. Until we have politicians willing to stand up for working people rather than the corporate paymasters who finance their campaigns little will change.

  20. Kris

    February 19, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    I’m sorry but you go into teaching knowing what to expect. You have a steady job with benefits, summers off, Christmas and spring break weeks, etc. I appreciate teachers but they could never hack it in the corporate world where payouts and layoffs loom as well as 60 hr workweeks with a measly 10 days off and in this economy are coming off as whiners. You have a job, you knew what it entailed, quit freaking complaining about it!

  21. Reggie

    February 19, 2014 at 11:48 pm

    Mr. Maxwell,you are very disrespectful and ignorant as to how long teachers work . Why don’t you go to school and try it since you know what the job is all about . My wife is a teacher I work in and Emergency room as a RN trust me my wife works way more hours then I do when she is home she is preparing her classes lessons the job is seven days a week more then 40 hours sir.

  22. Anonymous

    February 20, 2014 at 9:55 am

    What about the bus drivers and TSA’s?

  23. Anonymous

    February 20, 2014 at 9:56 am

    What about the bus drivers and TSA’s?

  24. Reggie

    February 20, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Kris, you have know idea what you are taking about. Teachers work more then 60 hours a week. They were promised before excepting the job what there pay scale would be and this was changed.By the way there health insurance is not all that great thats why my wife is on my plan.

  25. oldexhausted teacher

    February 21, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    As a 30+ year teaching veteran married to a teacher that will retire within the next two years I would like to thank those of you that have written supportive and encouraging words. We teach because it has been our calling, we love kids and we wish to make a significant difference in others’lives. I too wrote the Governor last fall with some legitimate concerns. I am sorry to say I never received a response from him or anyone on his staff. Having contacted my elected representatives many times over the years this was a first! In closing I wish to share some FACTUAL things that have occured concerning broken promises made to teachers. Some of you can call it whining but it sill is factual. My first three years of teaching my salary was frozen although I was hired with the promise that I would receive a pay increase each successive year I taught. Teachers were promised that our state would get teachers’ salaries to the national average. When our state introduced bonus pay to be paid to those schools that reached their goals based in part on end of course test scores the state did not follow through in the last year even though teachers upheld their end by working hard with their students to exceed those goals. And as already mentioned by others we again have had our salaries frozen without being paid on the steps we were promised. The exception being the 1.2% pay increase we have received once over a 6 year period.
    Now what about the facts for this year. A possible sizeable raise to new teachers to encourage them to not abandon the profession. Awesome. What about those teachers that do an outstanding job on a daily basis that have 10 -30+ years of experience? My wife and I can’t afford to retire due to the fact we have not been compensated to the extent that we could save enough for retirement. The lack of money is not due to an extravagant life style. We have lived in a 900 square ft. 2 bedroom 1 bath starter home for the past 30 years raising 1 daughter (wish we could have had more kids but couldn’t afford it). Those of you that say my words are old and whiny; God bless you! Spin it anyway you wish, it is still factual! Having said all this I still love to teach, love my students and will continue to be a professional even if I am old, exhausted and yes maybe a little whiney!!

  26. Not hanging on- drowning

    February 22, 2014 at 8:14 am

    This letter expresses how all educators are feeling. Thank you for writing it and sending it to the Governor on behalf of all teachers.

  27. Marsha

    February 23, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    I totally agree! I am a school nurse & my husband is a teacher/coach in high school. We, too have given countless hours, endured the lack of pay increase & continued to shine in our jobs!! Where is the equity in raising teacher salaries, if those who have the experience are left out?? I’m sure this will not improve cohesiveness in a staff. New teachers need mentors, & they will be paid less?? This does not make sense. And, as a school nurse, I attend to students’ medical needs so they can STAY IN SCHOOL!!! Are we NOT worthy of a raise. Every school worker is part of the team…bus drivers, teachers, teacher assistants, cafeteria workers, janitors, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, psychologists, secretaries, counselors, assistant principals. & principals….ALL deserve the best NC can give. Without school workers, regardless of their job description, the future of our students is in jeopardy. Politicians, align yourselves to drawing workers together instead of dividing them!!

  28. Teacher

    February 23, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    A lot of people do not understand or even know about teacher pay scales/schedules. I was hired in 2007, which has turned out to be the worst time to start my profession. According to the pay scale when I was hired, I should be making $6,000 more than I currently make. A few years ago, I got married. Guess what she does?? She is a teacher and was hired the same time I was. That is a combined $12,000 a year that we are NOT making. But, when we started teaching and signed our contracts, we knew what we were “supposed” to make in the future. I assume there are hundreds of teachers in a very similar situation. Unfortunately, we are hesitant on starting a family because we simply cannot afford a child. If something doesn’t change, and change fast; myself and maybe my wife too, will have no choice but to leave the profession. We do not want to leave, we both love our jobs. But, what are we supposed to do?? Suck it up and continue to be undervalued, and unappreciated?

  29. Gina

    February 26, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    I agree with Kris. Many people with advanced degrees would kill to make what teachers do. Teachers have an exorbitant amount of time off and their state benefits are amazing. You have a high insurance premium? Consider yourselves lucky. Many full-time employees in this country have no benefits at all. The public is tired of teachers’ constant whining about what they are paid. News flash, everyone thinks they deserve more money. If you want a huge salary, how about going to work in the private sector. You are being paid by TAX PAYERS.

  30. Reggie

    February 27, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    Gina, news flash they just want to be paid what was promised to them in a written contract. Since you think teachers have so much time off why don’t you try the job you sound like you would be and outstanding teacher !