Why are teachers leaving?

To the Editor:

In recent years, we have seen a number of people leaving the teaching profession or moving to other states for higher salaries among other reasons. According to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, the percentage of teachers leaving the profession increased from 7.53 percent in 2019-20 to 8.20 percent in 2020-21. In 2020-21, the most common reason for leaving was personal reasons (44.6 percent), followed by other reasons (25.5 percent), beyond control of the district (24 percent), and initiated by the district (5.9 percent).

In the early 2000s, North Carolina was near the top in the South in teacher pay and per pupil spending. Its teacher incentive pay tied to end-of-grade and end-of-course testing programs was a model for education reform throughout the country. Soon after that when Republicans controlled the General Assembly, they began doing away with extra pay for tenure, teacher pensions, master’s pay and the N.C. Scholars Program that gave student-teachers a reason to stay and work in N.C. after college graduation. Democrats were opposed to these changes but they were outnumbered, and our education system began to decline.

According to Salary.com, the average teacher salary in N.C. is $58,910 as of April 26, but the range typically falls between $51,500 and $68,055. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on the city and many other important factors, including degrees earned and the number of years spent in the profession.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s 2022-23 budget had $526 million for education which includes $90 million to enhance early childhood education and $52 million for pre-K expansion. In the final week before the end of the fiscal year, the Republican-led House and Senate agreed to a budget compromise that includes a 4.2 percent average raise for teachers for 2022-23. Beginning teachers will now start out at $37,000 instead of the slightly more than $35,000 they previously got.

At the March Indivisible Swain County meeting, Swain County Public Schools Superintendent Mark Sale said the legislature tells the counties what to pay teachers. We need to tell legislators that teachers require more pay and ask them to increase salaries. Sale said there needs to be a way to provide a supplement for teachers above their salary on the local level. In the recently approved state budget, teachers and school based instructional staff have been allotted small school supplements. However, Jackson, Haywood and Buncombe Counties and Asheville are giving a locally supported supplement in addition to the state sponsored supplement. Rep. Mike Clampitt and Sen. Kevin Corbin supported the state sponsored supplements. Sale is encouraged.

Teachers shape our children and the country’s future. They often spend more time with the children than parents/guardians. Can we afford not to pay teachers what they are worth when the cost to our children’s future is so high? What are we willing to give up to provide equal compensation for teachers and support staff for their work with our children? The least we can do is support county commissioners and legislators who will increase teachers’ pay. Are you willing to do this?

Mary Herr, Cherokee