More teachers left North Carolina to teach in other states last year than the year before, and more reported leaving the profession because they were dissatisfied or wanted to make a career change, according to a state Department of Public Instruction draft report.
Overall, the teacher turnover rate dipped slightly to 14.12 percent last year from 14.33 percent in 2012-13.
Fewer teachers retired in 2013-14, and fewer moved into administrative or other central office positions, Lynne Johnson, DPI’s director of educator effectiveness, said in an email. The top reason teachers resigned was for teaching jobs in other North Carolina districts.
The State Board of Education is set to review the report at its meeting next week.
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Teacher pay has been a major political obsession this election year, and legislators approved an average 7 percent raise for teachers. But not before the Houston Independent School District made attention-grabbing recruiting trips to North Carolina, dangling higher pay and better benefits to lure teachers to Texas.
Concerns that teachers would leave North Carolina for better pay elsewhere ended up coming true – 734 teachers resigned to teach in another state in 2013-14, versus 455 the previous year. The districts employed 96,010 teachers last year.
In addition, more than 1,000 teachers left the profession because they were dissatisfied with teaching or wanted a career change, up from 887 in 2012-13.
“Resigned in lieu of dismissal” is a new reporting category; 140 teachers reportedly resigned because they were about to be fired.
The new state report shows that the turnover rate in Wake County, the state’s largest system, dropped from 12.1 percent to 11.51 percent.
In April, Wake had issued a press release saying that “it appears likely that (the turnover) rate will increase this year – and could spike significantly.”
Tim Simmons, a Wake schools’ spokesman, said Thursday that the state report only covers departures through March and doesn’t include all the teachers who’ve left since then. He pointed to district figures showing that 1,210 teachers had resigned during the 2013-14 school year compared to 906 the prior year and 609 in the 2009-10 school year.
“In the spring, the district reported that the resignation rate was going up – and it did,” Simmons said.
In an April press conference, Wake school officials had warned about the “alarming number” of teacher resignations. School leaders said then that more than 600 teachers had left their jobs since the beginning of the school year, an increase of 41 percent over the same period last year.
Those Wake figures have been cited by Democratic candidates running for state office and the Wake County Board of Commissioners to attack their Republican opponents.
Simmons said Wake’s turnover rate will likely go up in next year’s state report after all of this year’s spring and summer resignations are included.
“People kept leaving after the press conference and through the end of the year and are still leaving,” he said.
The Republican-controlled legislature raised the average teacher salary by 7 percent, an increase that included longevity pay. But raises for veteran teachers were far below raises given less experienced teachers, making salaries an ongoing election issue.
The turnover report is encouraging, said Dallas Woodhouse. He runs the nonprofit political group Carolina Rising, which sponsored an ad praising House Speaker Thom Tillis, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, for the teacher pay raise.
Teachers leaving the state is an issue, Woodhouse said. but Republicans are dealing with it. The economy has to improve for teacher salaries to improve, “and we’re seeing that now,” he said.
Mark Jewell, vice president of the N.C. Association of Educators, said the increase in teachers leaving the state “is concerning to me.
“We’re losing good, quality, experienced teachers that have been trained in our state,” he said. NCAE has endorsed incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in her reelection bid.
Superintendents in some districts have teaching positions they’ve been unable to fill, Jewel said.
“We may see a small tick down (in the turnover rate) but that’s not significant,” Jewell said. “What is significant is teachers who have gone to teach in other states or gone to other careers.”