One of the many “make-do-with-less,” “up-by-their-bootstraps” creations of the modern public education system in North Carolina is something known as the “school improvement team” or “S.I.T.” These are simple, common sense groups created by state law that include “the principal of each school, representatives of the assistant principals, instructional personnel, instructional support personnel, and teacher assistants assigned to the school building, and parents of children” and that have the eminently reasonable and unsurprising objective of improving schools.
Recently and much to the group’s credit, the School Improvement Team at Chapel Hill’s Culbreth Middle School (a bipartisan group, by the way) crafted an open letter to Gov. McCrory about the state of education in North Carolina and the state’s dwindling investments. We offer it here as a potential inspiration to other dedicated S.I.T.’s around the state:
“Dear Governor McCrory,
The bipartisan School Improvement Team at Culbreth Middle School respectfully requests that you act in the best interests of all North Carolina’s children by advocating for a greater investment in public education.
After years of bipartisan failure to increase their salaries, North Carolina’s teachers are paid $10,000 below the national average. Many of our teachers struggle to support their families and must devote time to second jobs to make ends meet. In addition to that dire economic reality, the 2013 legislative session ended graduate degree pay increases, abolished tenure, eliminated teacher and assistant positions, reduced text and materials budgets, provided vouchers to divert limited public funds to private schools, and again, gave no raises. Our teachers feel abandoned and demoralized.
Parents across the state are deeply concerned that if the May legislative session does not result in serious corrective action, we will lose many of our most talented teachers. Such losses would cause devastating and lasting harm to North Carolina public school children.
We were relieved by your acknowledgment that teacher pay in North Carolina must be improved. However, your current plan will not solve the serious problem. Providing a raise to only the least experienced teachers does not give any talented person a reason to choose or stay in teaching. It signals a policy choice not to invest in our most experienced teachers and sends a message that the state deems them least deserving of raises.
That is a message we must not send. Our veteran teachers have been working harder in larger classes with fewer resources—waiting patiently for North Carolina to give them raises like their colleagues receive in neighboring states. Experienced teachers have the most wisdom to share with our children and younger colleagues. We should show them we honor their experience and years of dedicated service.
Please listen to the business community. Bipartisan business leaders support greater investment in public education so that they can hire an educated workforce. Excellent educational infrastructure provides states with competitive advantages in recruiting new businesses and top candidates. Without excellent public schools, we will see housing values drop and companies less interested in locating here. From your work with the business world, you must know that top talent can only be patient for so long.
Like any business, to provide high quality services, the employer must pay a competitive wage. For this reason we urge you to adopt a plan that brings North Carolina teacher pay back to at least the national average where it once was. We believe a better than average investment in education is in the best interests of our children. Because our state has fallen so far in this metric, it is essential that North Carolina adopt a plan to raise the pay of all our teachers to at least the national average.
North Carolina spends a smaller percentage of tax dollars on education than most other states. That choice does not reflect our values. Providing an excellent education for our children is most important to us. We urge you to reallocate our tax dollars according to what is most important to us: our children.
What obligation can possibly be more important than giving them the opportunity to succeed? They cannot vote. It is our moral obligation and civic duty to protect them.
We seek your leadership in providing additional funding to support teacher pay and student learning. Please reconsider your current plan. If you do not do so, your legacy will be to chase talented teachers from our state, weaken public education, and diminish economic opportunities for North Carolina’s youth. We urge you not to take that path. Instead, please help us earn back our reputation as the education state. For the sake of all our children, please reflect on the profound importance of this issue. As our Governor, we beseech you to steer our state in a direction that leads to a stronger educational foundation for all our children. We add our voice to the chorus of many across this state urging you to revise your plan and use our tax dollars first to fund excellent quality public education with nationally competitive salaries for all our teachers.
Deborah R. Gerhardt Molly Caudill
SIT Parent Co-Chair SIT Faculty Co-Chair
Beverly Rudolph Rob Frescoln
Principal Assistant Principal
Kat Rangel Kay Edwards
Principal Intern Classified Representative
Sarah Barker Jessie Grinell
Faculty Representative Faculty Representative
Gloria Dominguez Nurum Erdem
Parent Representative Parent Representative
Shelley Bunting Ruth Pershing
Parent Representative Parent Representative”