Good teachers are essential

Published 7:24 pm Thursday, May 15, 2014

Washington Daily News Editorial

Education is important — we all should understand that. That’s why it’s a little difficult to understand why North Carolina is reluctant to pay its teachers what they are worth.

Currently in N.C., a teacher with zero to five years of experience makes just around $30,800. It takes six years of experience for a teacher to receive a raise of $420, and from then on, regular small raises, though a teacher could make more depending on where they teach and if they earn a stipend as a coach or club leader.

Last year, the General Assembly increased teacher pay by 1.2 percent for the first time in four years, citing that it would not have been financially responsible to do so sooner.

According to state figures, teachers make an average of $45,947, with $4,931 in health insurance, $5,383 in state pension and $3,139 in social security contributions for a total of $59,400 — for working 10 months out of the year.

The implication that teachers work just 10 months out of the year is not really a  valid reason to keep teacher pay stagnant, especially in a state that already ranks No. 46 out of 50 states in teacher salaries. Teachers often do not spend those two months relaxing at the beach — they spend a lot of that time wrapping up the previous year, preparing for the next year, and attending seminars and further educational classes to make sure they are keeping up with teaching trends.

Anyone who experiences a 1.2 percent pay increase every four years and is asked to live off of $30,800 a year risks becoming disillusioned with their profession, especially those who are young and just starting their lives and families. It’s happened in North Carolina, where one teacher after another has left teaching to find a better-paying job or left the state to find a better paying teaching job.

The General Assembly began their session Wednesday to create next year’s state budget, taking into consideration the $21 billion budget plan Gov. Pat McCrory recently released. McCrory’s education initiatives to increase teacher pay and provide salary supplements for teachers who obtain advanced degrees are included.

We all have had some teacher that touched our lives or pointed us in the right direction in life. We might not have realized it at the time, but on reflection, there’s always that special teacher who made a difference. Supporting our teachers now means those teachers will continue to have the same impact on the next generation.

Let’s hope the General Assembly does the right thing.