Why are teachers leaving? Letter to the editor, Mary Herr, Sylva Herald

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

Why We Should Support Public Education by Kristin Kane

First, let me say THANK YOU to all the public education employees who continue to devote their time, energy, and expertise to our children, our most treasured resource. As a retired educator, I understand the importance of public schools. It was disappointing to watch our NC legislature decreaseresources while increasing expected outcomes over the years.

Even with the proposed salary increases in North Carolina’s 2022 Appropriations Act, the state is projected to fall from 38th place last year to 40th this school year. NC is 44th in the nation when it comes to per-pupil K-12 spending.

In the 1994 Leandro v. NC case, the court decided that NC was not meeting the needs of its students. In 1997 and 2004, the NC Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina has a constitutional obligation to ensure all children have access to a sound basic education that should include competent and well-qualifiedteachers and principals, as well as sufficient funding across districts. In 2018, The Leandro Comprehensive Remedial Planwas ordered by the court as a resolution for Leandro v. NC to ensure every child has access to a sound basic education by 2028. Our Republican legislature is still fighting to overturn a November 2021 court decision that would fund the first two years of that plan.

NC has provided inadequate public education funding, but the dollars allocated to NC’s private school voucher program (Opportunity Scholarships) got a massive boost. These budgetincreases are greater than current demand for the program. At the end of each year, dollars have been left unspent. Instead of going into the general fund for use in public schools, the dollarswere allowed to carry over to the next year, increasing each subsequent year’s voucher budget.

Republican legislators are funneling more dollars to private schools through voucher programs, but they are failing to require similar levels of transparency about student achievement and school finances. NC should hold all schools receiving Opportunity Scholarship funds to the same accountability standards as public schools. Why aren’t statistics about teacher credentials, student test performance, and finances posted, as they are for traditional public schools and charter schools?

Some people want to complain about what teachers are doing or teaching or expecting.  Parents want to be involved.  GREAT!! Volunteer. Do homework with your children so you know what they are learning.  Check their agenda books daily.  Keep up with their assignments and grades (they’re online).  Read the same books they read, both so you know what they are reading, and so you can discuss the content.  Compare it with your family’s understanding of the world.  Educators are experts who need your support, not your uninformed opinions.  

The problem in our NC schools is not our educators, but thelimited resources directed toward public education.  NC Housecandidate Al Platt recognizes the importance of public education. NC Senate candidate Karen McCracken has been a teacher. I’m voting Blue in November for legislators who care about strong public schools in North Carolina!!!

Kristin Kane

Unintended Consequences, Letter to the Editor by Carolyn Cagle


As a woman growing up in Western North Carolina, I always knew and still know I am not pro-Abortion; however, I am pro-healthcare for women. When the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs Wade, I began to think more deeply and honestly about all the things that have been affected by their decision, about all themany Unintended Consequences that we as women, our spouses, and our families are beginning to realize.

Unintended consequences like what could have happened to me as a young wife years ago. I almost lost my son at 6 months in my first pregnancy. I was put on bed rest and was blessed to carry him to full term and birth my only child. Two years later, I was not so fortunate. I had a partial miscarriage when I was 4 months along. After 4 stressful weeks of repeated testing with consistent negative pregnancy results, worry that my baby had been compromised and having developed a uterine infection, I was admitted to the hospital and a D & C was performed by my doctor.

What if I had also been questioned as to whether I had tried to abort the baby or if my doctor had been unsure that he legallycould have treated me? Would the ability to have the healthcare I needed eventually have resulted in the unintended consequences of my death or serious impairment of caring for my precious 2-year-old son? It makes my heart beat rapidly even now, 53 years later, to think of the pain both my husband and I felt during that difficult and uncertain time.

I know two young women who have recently experienced miscarriages while trying to bring a much wanted first child into their happy homes. One of them had a complete miscarriage, but hemorrhaged and had to be treated at a medical facility. What if her intention had been questioned and as an unintended consequence, she had been denied healthcare by a doctor who was unsure of the legal rights to treat her. Would she have diedor lost her ability to have children? It breaks my heart to think of the pain these women, their spouses and families, have suffered without having to suffer through being questioned as to their motives involving miscarriages over which they had no control.

What about cases of rape and incest? There are women who bear the scars of these brutal and horrific crimes against them for their entire lives. How can judges or legislators or any of us dare to think we can develop a simple, unyielding rule of law to decide the fate of these girls and women who face unintended pregnancies and unintended consequences brought about by theSupreme Court’s ruling.

What about the unintended consequences of cases of ectopicpregnancies which will never result in a baby being born but will surely result in real danger to the woman’s life if she is denied healthcare?

What if all the women who’ve had painful and stressful miscarriages had been questioned as to whether they tried to abort the fetuses they were carrying or denied healthcare when they needed it? Further, what if women and girls who have been raped or were a victim of incest and became pregnant were put in prison because they chose abortion over a birth that was conceived in violence and hate? What if all the men who were ever partners in conception and never helped raise or support those children were also put in prison? Honestly, how much of the blame and grief is fair to place on women alone? It’s both cruel and unfair for women to bear the full responsibility.

Yes, we’re now dealing with so many unintended consequencesbecause the Supreme Court foolishly, and without much forethought, overturned Roe vs Wade. Republican legislators aretrying to dictate a one-size-fits-all fix for things that should be private to individuals in the complicated circumstances of their lives. Complicated things that can only be known and should only be decided by the individuals who are facing them. VOTE BLUE to protect your privacy and your right to make these crucial decisions!

Carolyn Cagle, Sylva

Originalism is Wrong

Originalism is Wrong

I am a Christian, a mother, a grandmother, and a retiredphysician born in 1950 long before the start of women’s rights. I benefited immensely from the feminine equity struggle and strongly believe that this societal change also helped my family and my community. At the time the original constitution was written only white property-owning men had any fundamental rights.  Black people were predominately slaves, and women could not vote.  We have all come a long way.

However, I fear that the  Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe is the first step in returning our nation back to this white patriarchy. Complex legal arguments based on laws from the last 500 years are just a smoke screen for the slippery slope wherewe are now engaged.  If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one for goodness’s sake. Instruct your family and church community to do the same thing.  But a fundamental ORIGINALIST interpretation of our constitution is that it is founded on the separation of church and state.  We are all free to practice our particular faith doctrine…. but we are not free to impose it on everyone else.

We have come to a very skewed place in our nation.  You can carry an AK47, a weapon of war, because of your fundamental rights, but a woman has no right to make personal private health decisions. This extreme group of people will not even pass the Equal Rights amendment for Women. Do not believe their words that this leaked ruling overturning 50 years of precedent is just a one-time adjustment.  Watch their actions. Focus on the long game, not the latest tweet. Fundamental freedoms can be permanently taken away. Please vote in the next election for candidates who honor all of, not just the nationalistic Christians.  The future of your children’s children depends on you to protect all their rights, not just a right to carry a semi-automatic weapon.

A Mountain Mother


Message from a mountain mother regarding gun control

In light of the August 28 shooting in an Oregon grocery store”

Dear Republican Neighbor and fellow Jackson County Resident,

I am writing to ask your help.  I think we are all reeling from the recent mass shooting like the one in Uvalde.  Our politicians donot really want us to find an answer to this mutual problem; we are the only country in the world where children get slaughtered in school. They exploit our political division to keep money in their pockets and themselves in power.  I am a gun-owning Democrat, and a mature adult.  I know as you do that compromise is not a dirty word.  It is not surrender.  Surely, there is a middle ground to this debate so we can move forward and truly be the exceptional nation that we used to be. As a Republican, you are the only person who can talk some sense into your elected representatives.

We can always do “both/and”.  It is never simply all or nothing.  Democracies don’t work that way.  Democracies work by compromise and good ideas come from both sides of the aisle. Securing our schools and placing armed police presence in them is a good Republican idea.  It is also a good idea to get background checks before a gun purchase and raise the age of purchase to the drinking age. The USA does NOT have any more mental health problems than the rest of the world; that is not why we have more school shootings. That is insulting to us as a people.  We just have too many guns in the hands of the wrong people.  Semi-automatic weapons are not used for hunting. but they can be used to shoot 100 rounds of ammunition into a 3rd grade classroom. The gun manufacturersproduce them to make money and scare the rest of us.

Please for the sake of our community and nation, urge your leaders to find some middle ground.  I am certainly talking to the people I vote for. Let’s do something together about this national recurring nightmare.

A Mountain Mother


Midterm Elections Approaching! Here are important dates.

Midterm Election – Important Dates

Friday, Sept. 9: Vote-By-Mail ballots available

Friday, Oct. 14: Voter Registration Deadline

Thursday, Oct. 20: One-Stop Early Voting Begins (can register and vote at the same time)

Tuesday, Nov. 1: Absentee (VMB) Ballot Request Form Deadline

Saturday, Nov. 5: One-Stop Early Voting Ends

Tuesday, Nov. 8: Election Day, Polls open 6:30am-7:30pm


Tuesday, Nov. 8: Absentee Ballot Return Deadline 5pm – must be returned to county BOE (NOT polling places)

Ms. Buchanan’s rejection of church and state separation, by Penny Smith

Ms. Buchanan’s Rejection of Church and State Separation


The beginning of the first amendment to our Constitution declares that we will “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It goes on to prohibit Congress from limiting our rights to free speech, press, assembly and petition. But it begins with some advice about religion and it does so deliberately.


Most of us recognize the “free exercise” clause. Our government should have no role in what we choose to believe. We are free to subscribe to any religion, sect, or denomination. We can even elect to believe in none at all. Yet it’s the other clause, which comes first, that we are prone to forget. We cannot “establish” a religion. In other words, it is forbidden to privilege one set of beliefs above another.


Our founders were familiar with established religion. The Church of England prevailed in the colonies and it was itsprivileged position the founders sought to banish. Popular stories of our founding then and now praised early dissenters like Roger Williams, when they founded settlements on the premise of welcoming diverse believers. Lord Baltimore, the Catholic founder of Maryland, likewise welcomed dissenters as did William Penn, a Quaker, in his colony of Pennsylvania.


The phrase “separation of church and state” is generally traced to an 1802 Thomas Jefferson letter in which he affirms to a Baptist congregation worried about the establishment of religion that the writers of our Constitution believed religion was “a matter … between Man & his God.” Government has no role in that relationship. Thus, he wrote, the new Constitution built “a wall of separation between Church and State.” It is a separation that I assume even Jesus would approve, given his advice to render unto Caesar what is his and unto God “the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22: 21, KJV). His statements built on the foundation laid in the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom (1786), which he authored.


So, Ms. Buchanan’s assertion in a Facebook post that the separation of church and state is a “false teaching” raises the question of in what way is it false? True, no man, woman or government can nor should wipe away our personal religious beliefs. They often form the ethical framework with which we view the world and they sometimes guide our personal behaviors. However, in a nation of diverse peoples, with diverse beliefs, it is contrary to the establishment clause to force those notions on others through public policy. We have never lived up to the aspirations of the establishment clause, but that doesn’tmean it is a false teaching.


In the same Facebook posting Ms. Buchanan notes that legalizing abortion was wrong and predicated on a lie. How she squares that assertion with the deeply felt religious beliefs of some people that life only begins at birth, not conception, is beyond me. For example, in Judaism, life starts with a first breath and that happens after, not before, a fetus enters the world. So, are those believers to turn their backs on their theology and adopt that of Ms. Buchanan? Isn’t that establishment of a set of beliefs? Doesn’t that compromise religious freedom? One wonders into what pretzels our conservative Supreme Court majority will twist itself when a case brought on behalf of religious freedom FOR abortion access appears, as it inevitably will.


That’s why that establishment clause was paired with a freedom clause when it came to religion. Religion is only free when it cannot be established. When we disagree, logic dictates that we use our faith to render personal decisions for ourselves and not policy, legislative or judicial decisions for everyone. Ideological absolutists have entangled us in tribal divisions on behalf of ideas worthy of authoritarians and Grand Inquisitors rather than falling back on two very sound pieces of advice: Caesar does Caesar’s work and God does God’s work with a wall of separation between them.


Not only do I worry about people who think that wall is a false belief, but I fear what they might do to our great country. In the name of their religion, they want to shut down conversations. They forbid books. They hope to dictate which ideas we can encounter and which we must avoid. In public schools, they support a regime of ideologically pure instruction and avoid education, which requires critical thinking and openness to new ideas. Instruction makes us alike; education allows for difference. A nation instructed is a nation dead in the water, unwilling and, ultimately, unable to deal with what tomorrow may bring. That is the world established religions make and it is not one in which I or any other freedom-loving American should wish to live.


When it comes to Caesar’s world, “true believers” must be true believers only for themselves and their families. Hate abortion? Don’t have one, but remember that many sincere believers of other religions do not believe that life begins with conception. Want to put limits around what young people should know or encounter? Do that with your own children, but do not inflict that requirement on the children of people who do not share your belief system. Want a restricted curriculum reflective of your sense of what the world is like? Opt for private schools; that is not the task of public ones.


Let me be very clear. I am not saying that in public schools children should be exposed to things that are age-inappropriate. Obviously, adults have a responsibility to monitor what children encounter, but they also have a responsibility, at least in a free country, to ensure they engage with facts, with history (both the good and the bad parts of it), and with diversity. Ultimately, children belong to themselves, not their parents nor their country nor one set of ideas. That’s what freedom, something Ms. Buchanan repeatedly touts in her campaign literature, is all about.