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On the heels of its Raleigh job fair in May, the Houston Independent School District (HISD) is once again looking to poach North Carolina’s school teachers to come work in Texas for much higher pay. The Texas school district will be holding job fairs this week in Greensboro, Raleigh and Charlotte.Houston

The available jobs in Houston, according to Greensboro’s News & Record, are in “critical shortage” areas including bilingual education, secondary math and science, special education and career and technical education.

HISD, which is headed by former Guilford County Schools superintendent Terry Grier, advertises a starting salary for teachers of $49,100. In North Carolina, the starting salary for teachers is currently $30,800. The advertisement says the Houston school district is “prepared to make job offers on the spot.”

North Carolina currently ranks 46th in the nation in teacher pay, and there has been no shortage of attention to the fact that teachers, who haven’t seen a significant pay increase in six years, are leaving the state in large numbers.

Lawmakers are currently embroiled in a budget battle over how much more to pay teachers, proposing anywhere from a 6 to 11 percent pay raise and bringing the starting salary for teachers up to $35,000.

But those salary increases may come at the expense of teacher assistants, who could be laid off in large numbers this fall to pay for the pay bumps.

See HISD’s job fair advertisements here, here and here.

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North Carolina educator and blogger James Hogan has an interesting take on the Senate’s proposed 21-step salary schedule for teachers, which would raise average salaries by 11.2 percent next year, provided that teachers relinquish their tenure.

Hogan wonders: is the salary schedule, which provides teachers with no raises between years 20-29, cleverly designed to disincentivize teachers from retiring from the profession, with their pensions, by denying them a raise for a decade?

Teachers earn the same $50,000 wage from years 20-29. That’s a decade of service without a pay raise. In year 30, teachers earn just $42 more. Then, wages rise again, topping out at $56,129 at 36 years of service.

That means 16 years of teaching service–almost half the pay chart–is rewarded with only a cumulative 12 percent salary increase. The same working span, when measured from a teacher’s fourth through twentieth year of service, sees a cumulative salary increase of 47 percent.

So the plan clearly benefits teachers in the middle of the pack. And it provides a clear disincentive for teachers who seek to retire from teaching by denying them a raise for a decade. Why would the Senate structure salaries like that?

This is where the decision to give up career status becomes very important. Make no mistake–the Senate pay scale rewards young teachers and pushes older teachers out in the last third of their career.

And why would the state government be interested in teachers leaving the classroom in their last ten years of teaching? The answer, I’m afraid, rests in some of what Senator David Curtis said in his now-infamous response to Charlotte teacher Sarah Wiles [who wrote a letter to legislators complaining about teachers’ pay in the state]:

“You expect a defined contribution retirement plan that will guarantee you about $35,000 per year for life after working 30 years even if you live to be 104 years old. Your employer will need to put about $16,000 per year into your retirement plan each year combined with your $2,000 contribution for the next 30 years to achieve this benefit.”

What he’s saying is the state retirement pension program is the last golden egg for teachers. Here’s why. Say you’re a teacher who began your career the year after college at age 22. You taught for thirty-three years in North Carolina and retired at age 55. Based on today’s standards, you’re set to earn about $28,000 per year in retirement income every year until you die.

If you live another 33 years and die at age 88, that means you stand to collect $924,000 in retirement income. And the reason Senator Curtis was so ardent in pointing out the pension system to Ms. Wiles is that pensions cost the state a lot of money, and my guess is the fiscal conservatives in Raleigh are interesting in doing whatever they can to change that.

It’s an interesting theory. Read Hogan’s full piece over at The Washington Post.

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Earlier this month, Sen. David Curtis (R-Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln) wrote what many regarded as a harsh email in response to a frustrated teacher’s letter to the General Assembly about teacher pay in North Carolina.

Senator David Curtis

Senator David Curtis

Curtis’ response to the teacher, who admonished the General Assembly for making false promises to raise teacher pay, included admonishing her for her bad attitude and pointed to what he believed to be were perks of the job that she was overlooking.

Those perks included eight weeks paid vacation (teachers are actually not paid for those eight weeks; they are 10-month employees) and a defined retirement contribution plan that guarantees her $35,000 for life (your retirement benefit is actually 1.82% of your average final compensation multiplied by how many years you have given to the state).

Curtis’ response sparked an Internet firestorm, and the Mooresville Tribune checked in with Curtis to get his reaction to the kerfuffle he caused.

Those comments and others in the email inflamed teachers around the state and prompted scores of critical emails and letters to Curtis. But the senator, a native of Mooresville, isn’t taking anything back.

In fact, he said many of his colleagues in Raleigh have told him they agreed with him.

“One positive is that this has increased my stature with the legislature,” Curtis told the Mooresville Tribune. “At least 40 legislators have told me ‘What you said was right on the money.’ ”

Read the full story over at the Mooresville Tribune here.

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This morning’s Charlotte Observer has an excellent editorial on Judge Robert Hobgood’s recent decision that at least partially strikes down the counter-productive law passed last year that would end teacher career status:

“Last week we urged lawmakers to ditch this law during their short session that’s under way. We repeat that today. Time and tax dollars are being wasted in litigation.

If the past is an indicator, lawmakers are likely to appeal, as they’ve done with other court rulings on controversial laws they passed last year. But it is wrong to string this matter out with more legal action. The law was a wrongheaded move – and an unnecessary one.

Proponents contended that the new law, set to go into effect in 2018, was needed to ensure that bad teachers could be removed from the classroom. They argued that the current system protected poor performers.

Hogwash. Bad teachers could be fired before this law. The current system, in place since 1971, only guaranteed educators a hearing.

Hobgood’s ruling now reiterates that fact.

Unfortunately, this injunction applies only to teachers who already have career status. Teachers without such status – which is granted to those who made it beyond the first four years of a probationary period – are not covered.

Lawmakers should give up this fight. But if they won’t, they should suspend the process for teachers not covered by this injunction until litigation is done.

A two-tiered system where some teachers have hearing rights that others do not would compound the bad legislative decision a judge has now rightly upended.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

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At a Tuesday morning roundtable sponsored by Dell, Intel and the N.C. Business Committee for Education, Gov. Pat McCrory spoke to educators and business leaders who were gathered at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to strategize about ways to improve teacher effectiveness and next generation learning.

Using the opportunity to reiterate his education goals for the upcoming legislative session, which include paying all teachers more, McCrory hammered home his idea to create a “career pathway plan.”

“We want to ensure teachers have a career…and not a temporary stopover,” said McCrory, explaining that currently teachers have no way to move up in their profession unless they move into higher-paying administrative roles – a career move that not all practitioners are interested in making.

In addition to proposing a two percent average pay increase for all teachers and paying beginning teachers even more, McCrory proposed last week to create a long-term plan that would entice more teachers to stay in the profession by seeing salary increases that are linked to their work as teachers.

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