Teachers’ organization steps over the line

Published 7:56 pm Tuesday, April 10, 2007

By Staff
Teaching is a noble profession, but the North Carolina Association of Educators hit a nerve when it joined the bandwagon to sweeten the pot for teachers who want to take personal time off while school is in session.
Since the 1960s, the state has had a policy that requires teachers pay toward the cost of hiring a substitute for personal leave days they take during the regular school year, The Associated Press reported. It started at $15 and is now $50.
Let’s remember that teachers don’t work the same schedule as other professionals. Because Wake County seems to be the focus of the AP story, let’s use it for as an example. The last day of school there is June 7, which falls on a Thursday. That Friday teachers have a required vacation day. The following Monday and Tuesday are teacher workdays. After that, Wake teachers are off until August 16. The way we view the math, that’s 44 weekdays off. In the regular business world that’s more than eight weeks of vacation. Most jobs give between two and four weeks.
But that’s not the end. The benefits don’t end when school starts. Wake County teachers get nine holidays and 10 vacation days. That plus the summer break tallies up to 63 days off. And we haven’t even started to factor in sick days, which teachers can take off without paying for a substitute.
The $50 covers only part of the cost to hire a substitute. In the Wake system, the real cost can range from $65 for a noncertified substitute and up to $132 if they use a teacher’s assistant for the class.
Eliminating the fee would cost the Wake County public school system about $800,000 a year to cover two personal leave days for all of its roughly 8,000 teachers, David Neter, Wake schools’ chief business officer told the Raleigh News and Observer. Statewide, the cost of substitutes totals $7 million, of which teachers pay about $3.8 million through the $50 fee.
Teaching has its challenges, but it also has its rewards from a business standpoint. Along with the time off, a starting teacher, fresh out of school, earns $32,287 in the Wake system. Somebody with 10 years of experience earns $42,809. After 30 years, a teacher is earning $57,915. The idea of paying $50 for an additional day off does not appear to be a hardship from where we sit.
The North Carolina Association of Educators doesn’t agree. It has included the $50 fee in its 2007-2008 legislative agenda. A bill introduced in the state House would repeal the fee.
Jennifer Lanane, a veteran teacher and president of the association’s chapter in Wake County, says North Carolina is the only state in the southeast that charges the substitute fee.
We would argue that most professionals don’t get to take off 63 days a year between holidays and vacation.
Wake school board member Eleanor Goette provided the final insult. She said she encourages teachers to claim sick days for personal errands. What kind of example does that set for children? Where we went to school that was called lying, and that’s not something we were taught to do.