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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. Read More

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Gov. Pat McCrory, House Speaker Thom Tillis, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and Lt. Gov. Dan Forrest announced this morning a teacher pay plan that boosts salaries for less experienced teachers in North Carolina, but leaves behind the vast majority – approximately 65,000 teachers out of the state’s 95,000+ — who have worked here longer and whose wages have been effectively frozen for the past five years.

Teachers who started at the bottom of the pay scale five years ago have been stuck at $30,800 since that time, not counting local supplements. McCrory’s plan would guarantee that beginning teachers make at least $33,000 annually in 2014-15, and for 2015-16, base pay for teachers would increase again to $35,000.

GOP leaders estimate that approximately 32,000 teachers would benefit from the proposal. There are roughly 95,000 teachers in North Carolina, which means that three quarters of the teaching workforce would see their salaries frozen for the sixth year in a row. (Teachers did get a 1.2% pay raise in 2010, but that was offset by an increase in health care premiums).

McCrory said funds already available will be used to pay for the announced salary increase for beginning teachers. Approximately $250 million went unspent in the general budget during last year’s budget negotiations, begging the question: why didn’t the raise come last year, when funds were available then?

Also unclear: is McCrory’s plan a true pay raise, meaning the pay bump for new teachers will be recurring? Or is it a one-time bonus, leaving salaries to revert back to their previous levels after 2016?

On another note, supplemental pay will be awarded for those teachers who completed master’s degree programs by July 1, 2013. Previously, only those who had finished their degrees by April 1, 2013 would have received the pay bump, causing consternation for many who wouldn’t have been able to complete their degrees mid-semester in order to make the cutoff.

But going forward, it appears lawmakers will stick with the plan to deny graduate degree holders salary increases for advancing their education.

McCrory said that future announcements will be made with regard to teacher pay in the coming months. There was no mention of restoring other budget reductions to public education, which include drastic cuts to teacher assistants and classroom supplies, and lifting the cap on classroom sizes, among others.

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Snowy roadsCentral and Eastern North Carolina experienced what is, at least by our standards, a significant amount of snow Tuesday evening and on through Wednesday morning. It was at least enough to cancel public schools in impacted counties and districts, though it often doesn’t take even that much snow to cancel or delay school around here. Sometimes even the threat of snow is enough or, as we saw recently, brutally cold weather.

My friends and family from the north often laugh at the way we respond to winter weather, but it makes perfect sense: as a rare occurrence, we simply don’t have the equipment and resources to deal with such weather. Even if it’s just a light dusting, it’s much safer for everyone involved to shut down business as usual, including school, and let it pass. Better safe than sorry, the old saying goes.

Much safer, that is, for everyone except our teachers, not to mention other public school employees. Rather than allowing teachers a “snow day,” North Carolina puts “absences” due to inclement weather under the category of vacation leave. Read More

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The News & Observer’s T. Keung Hui reports that Wake County school board members don’t sound very happy with the new teacher contract system, which would give the top 25 percent of teachers small raises in exchange for giving up tenure, beginning with the next school year.

Wake County school board members heard more details last night about how administrators are trying to comply with the General Assembly’s mandate to offer teachers $500 pay bumps over four years as long as they relinquish tenure, which affords teachers due process rights in the event they are demoted or dismissed.

School board members railed against the new contracts, saying the process will hurt school morale and damage efforts to recruit teachers.

“This is a bad way for rewarding teachers,” said school board member Jim Martin. “This is a bad way for just about everything.”

Will Wake County join Pitt and New Hanover schools in opting out of the teacher contract system? Those local school boards have said they’ll give the money back that’s earmarked for the pay bumps (not clear is if they’re actually authorized to do this) and have asked state lawmakers to figure out a more equitable and sustainable compensation plan for teachers.