The Crisis Teachers Face - Stories from Local Teachers

Thank you for joining me for another dive into an issue facing our public schools.

Last week, I gave you some information about the dramatic cuts in Catawba County public schools to curriculum materials, like textbooks and online resources. This week, I was planning to talk about teacher pay and lack of support staff. I had gathered a lot of data and statistics on the decline in public school spending in recent years. Then, last Friday, I met with a group of amazing teachers. I listened to their stories about the lack of support they receive. They feel acutely the lack of respect of their profession that has led to the current state of public education in our state.

So, let me put the detailed statistics aside for the moment and share some of their stories. They really make the point that now is the time to pay much-needed attention to our schools, our educators, and our students.

Fact: teacher pay has dropped dramatically since the Republican-led General Assembly made the first cuts in 2013. One of the teachers showed me these (hold up the papers) pay-scale documents that plainly show that a teacher who has worked for 25 years in the school system today is making $800 per month LESS than a teacher who had 25 years in only 5 years ago.  

During this time, the General Assembly voted to end longevity pay, meaning that teachers will not receive a pay increase after they have worked more than 15 years. This punishes teachers for staying in their job until retirement. This also punishes the teachers who are likely at the top of their game with hard-earned experience on how to teach, especially those hard-to-reach students.

One adored career educator told me that she is planning to retire early, before her pension disappears, even though she loves her job and would prefer to continue teaching. She is already looking for another job and has heard about openings at the Target distribution center that pay thousands of dollars more a year than she is earning as an educator. 

The teachers are concerned about the size of their classes. With more teachers retiring early and fewer recent graduates choosing to teach here, North Carolina has a teacher shortage. Many classrooms have more than 30 students. One consequence: Putting child-sized desks in high school because classrooms don’t have the physical space for 36 high-school desks.

Or chairs lined up along the wall with some students not even having a desk!

Can you believe that?  

Even for classes with no desks, can you imagine a gym class with 52 students?!? I know a teacher who can imagine it because she lived it and she didn’t even have a teacher aide. This is NOT safe. We must do better.

Speaking of teacher’s aides, the most important change that teachers are asking for is a return to a full staff of assistants. I honestly didn’t realize how important teacher aides are until these educators started telling me what their classrooms are like without them.

Teacher aides help teachers, yes, but, more importantly, help keep students from slipping through the cracks. Every teacher I spoke with said thatassistants help decrease the number of interventions because issues could be addressed before they become problems. This is true for academics as well as safety.

Instead, without aides, teacherswork when they are sick, act as a substitute during their planning periods, and are typically too busy trying to keep up to give students the individual attention they may need to succeed.

None of these teachers I spoke with entered the profession for the money. They all love teaching and that love of teaching is the reason they continue to do more with less.  

But,full-time teachers shouldn’t need part-time jobs. A full-time teacher shouldn’t feel embarrassed to be seen by their students or friends from church when they are working that part-time job, getting off at 11 o’clock at night and still being ready for an over-sized classroom full of teenagers the next morning.  

Jay Adams and the North Carolina GOP-controlled legislature should be embarrassed! They should be embarrassed that they cut funding so much that teachers are leaving the state for South Carolina!

Legislators should spend a day in the classroom and have to look students and parents in the eye when they say that getting an education is important and teachers are vital public servants while they disrespect and undervalue their work. Instead, legislators force teachers to bear all of these burdens: low pay, high out-of-pocket expenditures, and out-of-date resources, quietly or they are labelled as whiners who care more about money than children. The teachers are taking the cuts.Our children – and their futures -- are paying the price.

We can do better. Instead of saying that public schools are failing, we need to recognize that the legislature is failing our public schools. North Carolina was an excellent place for public education, and we can return to that tradition.

We must stop the false narrative that North Carolina public schools are so broken that we should abandon them for private school vouchers. Instead, we must reinvest in public schools so we can have a strong foundation for our community to thrive.

Thanks again for watching this video. Please like and share it and help me spread the word about the important ways we can improve public education. If you want to join me in trying to make these changes, I’d love your help. Check out my website to find out how to get involved so that, together, we can make a difference.

To make real change, please vote for me, Kim Bost, for NC House 96 on November 6th.

Kim Bost