Unlike a lot of current members of the NC General Assembly I have a great deal of respect for teachers. My mother has been a teacher, librarian, and technology specialist in the WCPSS for over 20 years. The mother of my daughter is a teacher, as are her mother and brother, and many of my friends have joined the teaching profession working in elementary, middle and high schools here in North Carolina. Having been surrounded by teachers all of my life I find Senator David Curtis’ response to a letter sent to all NC legislators by a teacher in Charlotte extremely insulting and completely out of touch.
In his response Senator Curtis shows that a lack of understanding on how teacher pay works when he suggested that the teachers get 8 weeks of paid vacation a year. North Carolina teachers are paid for 10 months of work a year and have the choice of having their pay spread over either the 10 month school year or the full year. This is a true Sophie’s Choice for a starting teacher earning just over $30K a year. Even established teachers face this difficult choice with average teacher salary in the state being $46K, which to put into perspective is not only around $7K below the national average, but also less than a friend of mine makes as the manager of a Domino’s.
Senator Curtis goes on to rail against the greedy teacher’s union (a specious argument, without collective bargaining rights the NCAE can hardly be called a union). He also chastises the teacher for not recognizing the benefits that the state graciously bestows upon her. Just out of curiosity I Googled the list of benefits offered by Senator Curtis’ own employer, take a look. Those are some pretty sweet benefits, especially for a job that averages $104K a year in Senator Curtis’ area. I imagine that NC’s teachers would appreciate if their employer paid for their renewal courses and licensing costs, oh and the “well-equipped work environment” probably looks like a nice kick in the teeth to teachers who are using ten year old textbooks to teach their students. I wonder how Senator Curtis would feel if he had to make up and bring in his own eye charts from home?
I say that Senator Curtis is out of touch, but he’s hardly the only one. He’s just the most obvious example (and the only one dumb enough to hit ‘reply all’ when sending out insulting emails). This being an election year, teachers will be getting a raise. Of course it will only be a token raise, and it won’t offset the 15% drop in teacher pay (adjusted for inflation) that NC’s teachers have seen in the last decade. So take a page out of Senator Curtis’ book, and when you run into a teacher working a second job this summer at the grocery store, pool, or maybe McDonalds, ask them why they’re all such ingrates when they have it so good.
Please don’t stop writing about this topic. We, the adult citizens of NC, are shamefully turning our backs on the next generation. Public education is the glue that holds our nation together. If we allow its destruction, we seal that nation’s demise.
Thanks Marshall. I’ll do what I can, but we tend to follow the news cycle around here. That being said I have a feeling the general assembly will provide us with ample material to commentate on.
10 year old books? My biology books were purchased in 1998. Next to none of them have covers, most are missing pages, and we don’t even have enough to send one home with the kids. I have one class set of 28, even though most of my classes are over 30. Plus, you know, biology hasn’t changed a bit in 16 years. No new biotechnology, you know…. And since we basically got a budget of ….. nothing….. to buy new books, I won’t be putting an order in anytime soon. And you should see my “teacher chair.”
Thanks for reading. I’m glad you appreciated the piece. Eilene, trust me I wanted to include more, but I was running on way too long. This is an issue I’m particularly passionate about and I had to cut it down or it would have been double the length or more. As for the books I always err on the side of caution so I don’t shoot my credibility in the foot. Hopefully the NCGA will pay more than lip service to education this session, but I’m not holding my breath.
Terrific response to Curtis’ mean-spirited and ill-informed rant! It just amazes, saddens and riles me that the North Carolinians who are supposed to be their locality’s and state’s civic leaders have such a low appreciation of education, and such a skewed view of the work done, challenges faced, and sacrifices made by teachers. I yearn for the day when North Carolina returns to its enlightened and progressive lead position among its sister southern states, and treats the teachers of its next generation with respect, honor and a better living wage.