Cup of Joe: One micro step forward for education in NC

Illustration by Dafne Sanchez/The Carolinian

Illustration by Dafne Sanchez/The Carolinian

By Joseph Abraham, Editor-in-Chief

Published in print Sept.17,2014

Last July our state took a small step in the right direction when they gave a pay raise to teachers. Instead of the old 37-step plan, the new plan focuses on pay raises in year 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 of teaching.

In a 2013 article in The Washington Post titled “How much teachers get paid state by state”, North Carolina ranked 47 out of 50 states for average salary of elementary and secondary school teachers. The average salary in North Carolina was $45,947, while the United States average was $56,383. With an average less than $10,000 than that of the nation, it makes sense why so many young teachers are recruited to leave the state of North Carolina.

According to UNCG’s School of Education Office of Research and Assessment, “…of students who graduated with initial licensure between 2008 and 2012, 74 percent of our graduates have taught in North Carolina since graduating and 64 percent continue to teach in North Carolina.”

The pay raise will benefit recent graduates the most because between their fourth and fifth year there is an 18.5 percent increase from making $33,000 to $36,500. This is the largest percentage increase per year of the new plan. The second largest increase comes between year 9 and 10, where there is a 16.1 percent increase from $36,500 to $40,000 per year. With the largest increase in pay coming in the first 10 years of teaching, North Carolina may be able to keep and bring more young teachers in their state.

UNCG professor and Chair of the Department of Teacher Education and Higher Education, Dr. Colleen Fairbanks also believes the pay raise was good for young teachers, feeling it is an essential tool for the state to recruit highly qualified teachers. “The salary increases for teachers in North Carolina were much needed,” Dr. Fairbanks said. “As has been apparent in the newspapers, other states have been recruiting NC teachers because they offered salaries much higher than those offered here.”

Senior Lindsay Harrison, an education major and Teaching Fellow at UNCG had this to say about the pay raise. “I love the pay raise and I think it was something that teachers deserved,” Harrison said. “Although I do not think it is enough for all the work that teachers do (a lot of this being off the clock and unpaid), but it is a step in the right direction for North Carolina.”

While the pay raise is great for young teachers in the state, there are also many negatives to the new education plan, especially how it hurts teacher salaries in the long run. The large increases before year 5 and 10 might look great, but that percentage increase per year gets lower as teachers gain more experience. For example, a teacher entering year 15 will only receive a 9.5 percent increase, before year 20 the increase drops to 9 percent, 8.7 percent before year 25 and the most laughable increase is at year 30 where teachers will only get a .30 percent increase in salary.

Dr. Fairbanks is concerned with the new pay scale and the message it sends. “The legislature has signaled that experience in teaching holds less value to the state”, Dr. Fairbanks said. “That some teachers continue to teach and are committed to North Carolina youth when approximately 50 percent of teachers leave the field in the first five years, however, makes their dedication all the more impressive.”

Some of the best teachers I had in elementary, middle and high school were the most experienced teachers because like in any profession it takes time to hone your craft. It seems unfair that teachers who have stayed loyal and dedicated to the profession for years now have to give up more in the long run.

So while the new pay raise is a micro step forward because it will help recruit more young teachers to come to or stay in the state of North Carolina, it is also a step back as it does not reward teachers across the board for the experience they gain and the work they put in on a daily basis.

Categories: joseph abraham

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