This May, more than 20,000 North Carolina teachers marched the streets of Raleigh, North Carolina to demand higher salaries for teachers across the board. The protest caused nearly 40 schools districts to cancel school for the day, as the number of protesting teachers outnumbered the amount of available substitutes.
According to a study conducted by the Progressive Pulse, North Carolina teacher’s wages are ranked second to last in the nation, the lowest it has ever been. A new report from the Economic Policy Institute, exposed that, on average, teachers in North Carolina make 17.8 percent less than their peers nationally, and only earn a meer 57 percent of what other full-time, college educated North Carolinians earn.
Further research conducted by Chron revealed that starting pay for a North Carolina teacher with a bachelor’s degree starts at $30,430 per year as of 2012, according to North Carolina Public Schools. Low wages such as these have forced North Carolina educators to obtain secondary jobs and sources of income just to make ends meet.
Christina Burchette spoke about her financial struggles as an educator in an interview with the Huffington Post (Huffpost).
“I kept my retail job because I knew teaching wasn’t going to be enough to pay the bills,” said Burchette. “If I didn’t work a second job, I wouldn’t be able to be a teacher.”
Stories like these are not uncommon. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics found that about 16 percent of teachers nationwide have no other choice than to acquire a second job. The same study showed that in North Carolina, the rate ranks third-highest in the entire country at a whopping 25 percent. When considering teachers who also take on secondary jobs within the school system, that number rises to 52 percent.
“I know there are other states and countries where teaching is an honored profession, but I don’t feel like it’s that way here,” Burchette, an educator for four years, told Huffpost. “It’s great when people tell me they appreciate teachers, but the politicians don’t seem to agree. These politicians don’t understand the hours we put into teaching, the toll it takes and the investment we put into it.”
According to data collected by the North Carolina Education System, teachers work an average of 53 hours per week, not including lesson planning, grading assignments and bus or carpool duty before and after school.
Teachers aren’t the only people who suffer from the low wages they earn, as the children they teach are also victims to the system.
“When students ask if I can tutor them after school and I’m not able to be there for them, it just kills me,” Burchette explained. “I know I could be a better teacher if I had more time in the classroom, but I have to pay the bills.”