This Sunday Forum is in response to the letter to the editor “Teacher pay ‘enough’” (Apr. 7).
The letter writer has ignored several critical considerations. In the “red state” of Oklahoma, teachers went without pay raises for 10 years while experiencing increased costs of living during that time. The pay increases they will receive won’t make up for the losses in purchasing power those teachers experienced during the years without a pay raise.
In the red state of North Carolina the predominately conservative legislature removed the incentive for teachers to pursue a master degree by eliminating financial incentives for teachers furthering their education. The patronizing comment that some computer teachers “are no more than proctors” unfairly suggests those teachers play the unimportant role of overly-compensated, surrogate parents.
I am a high school social studies teacher in Onslow County. Many teachers do not understand how out of touch teachers look to the normal citizen voter. I cannot fault anyone trying to earn a bigger paycheck, but realize how you “look” to the average citizen.
As a public servant, how can you justify a salary that is above the medium income or at least comparable to your private sector counterpart? Public school teachers are paid more than their private school teachers. The median household income in NC is $50,500. Teachers look greedy by asking for a salary that is above what the average citizen makes. It tells the voter, “We need you to pay more taxes, to pay for an increase in my check.”
Teachers are paid based on years of experience and amount of education – not performance. Student achievement, student growth, responsibilities at school, professional achievements, experience, etc. all need to be factored into an individual evaluation to determine raises for teachers. I am frustrated that less effective teachers get paid more than me just because they have been a teacher for more years and have a master degree.
Compared to private sector workers, teachers have amazing benefits. Teachers were up in arms over having to pay $30 a month for an insurance plan. Most private sector workers have to pay for half of their insurance premium. Yes, teachers contribute to the state retirement plan. However, if a teacher serves 30 years, they will receive a guaranteed benefit not just the amount that they contributed.
In the private sector, raises average only 2-4 percent per year. Teachers complain when they get an average 5-7 percent. I, myself, have received a 33 percent raise in the 8 years I have been teaching. During the same period, my wife, working in the private sector, has only gotten a raise by achieving promotions.
Again, I do not demean any worker for striving for a better contract with their employer. Just remember who are our employers – the parents and taxpayers. They do not understand how teachers can ask for more money when they are not seeing a return on their investment. As a teacher, I am guilty of using the phrase “In the real world,” but teachers cannot begin to use that phrase when their pay is not based on anything like the real world.
The writer immediately gets to the crux of his complaint: “If teachers want to be paid for a full-time job then they should have to work one.” He then outlines his grievance about teachers’ ‘part-time’ work schedule.
As reflected by his concluding comment “I’m all for education,” the writer believes there should be public schools. He seems not opposed to the teaching profession, just the work schedule. If you choose to become a public school teacher in NC, earn certification and are hired, you will be offered in almost all instances a 10-month contract. The state mandates this, not teachers. Take it, or don’t teach.
Let’s just say the taxpayer has decided that 180 days of school in a year is all children can tolerate.
A teacher’s response
Let me take this one sentence at a time. “Fact is: Teachers in our public school system work 180 days a year. ... Regular businesses require employees to work 254 days yearly.” I did an audit of this year, and I actually will go to my school and work 194 days this year. On the days I work, I rise at 3 a.m. and work until 5 a.m. grading, lesson planning and answering emails. Then I go to work at 6:30 a.m. I teach actively for five hours of that time and do hall duty and paperwork, contact parents, and leave at about 4:30 p.m. That’s a 12-hour day. Every day. I also work at least two hours on weekends.
So, 194 X 12 = 2,278 hours + 78 weekend hours = 2,356 hours. If you divide that by nine (let’s say business employees work 9 hour days if you include those emails after hours), you get 261 days of work. So, I worked 261 days last year. I just did it in 196 days. Now you know why teachers are so exhausted.
“Teachers on the other hand: Fall, Christmas, Spring Breaks, Holidays and Summers off” What is Fall Break? Also, I do not get paid in the Summer, and my 10 vacation days are scheduled for me. No Disney World during September for me, no sir.
“And then there’s their benefits – no major company provides pensions anymore.” Did you know I pay $439 a month to my pension? And I’ve been paying in for 25 years so far? Not exactly a free benefit.
“With the advancements of technology, in many of the high school classrooms teachers are no more than proctors supervising the students taking online computer courses.” My students do look at curated digital-based exhibits in teams on any given day in my room. The catch is that I have done all the creation of the exhibits and the essential questions and I do all the grading of those responses.
“The lottery has pumped billions into the schools ...” Only 30 percent of lottery funds go to the schools. In 2016-17 the lottery produced $98 million for all 115 school districts. That’s far from billions. Even if the NC Education lottery gave 100 percent of its revenue to schools, that would only cover about 19 percent of the state’s total budget for K-12 public schools . The reason so much state money goes to our schools is that, unlike many northern states, our state Constitution requires that the public schools be administered and funded by the state government.
OK, so, back to the test grading (did I mention it’s Spring Break?)
Social Studies Teacher, Leesville Road High School