DPS teachers have mixed feelings about loss of longevity pay

Jul. 31, 2014 @ 05:15 PM

Local teachers have mixed feelings about a state House and state Senate proposal to do away with longevity pay for teachers.

While the proposed $21.3 billion House and Senate spending plan calls for pay raises for state teachers, critics contend that much of the increase would be offset by the loss of longevity pay.

Under the plan, teachers would be the only public employees to lose longevity pay, which is given to state employees as an annual bonus after they reach 10 years of service.

“Longevity is the state's way to say, ‘Thank you. You’ve paid your dues and stuck with us,’ ” said NaShonda Cooke, the 2014-15 Teacher of the Year at Eno Valley Elementary School.

Cooke added that veteran educators serve as models to new teachers, showing them how to give their best consistently to public education.

She said lawmakers are wrong to play such a shell game with teachers pay.

“For this government to attempt to give us the money we are contractually promised with other monies we've already earned is absurd,” Cooke said. “I'm sure their own teachers taught them better mathematical solutions than that.”

Under the plan, teachers would receive on average, a pay raise of 7 percent, but actual raises would range from 1 percent to 18 percent depending on the number of years a teacher has been in the profession.

Teachers will get a raise that legislative leaders say amounts, on average, to 7 percent, although actual raises will range from less than 1 percent to more than 18 percent depending on how long a teacher has been in the profession.

“This is another form of disrespect to teachers, who daily do more with less to ensure that the 1.5 million students in this state receive a quality public education,” N.C. Association of Educators Vice President Mark Jewell said in a statement. “Longevity is an earned benefit that teachers, as well as all other state and public school employees, receive separately for loyal state years of service and it should not be taken away.”

Marty Gensemer-Ramirez, an English teacher at the Durham School of the Arts, said the move to end longevity pay is evidence the state values the recruitment of new teachers over the retention of experienced teachers.

“It does not support teaching as a profession or encourage people to make a career of teaching. It's also deceptive, as the legislature is giving with one hand and taking away with the other,” Gensemer-Ramirez said.

“It does not support teaching as a profession or encourage people to make a career of teaching,” Gensemer-Ramirez said. “It's also deceptive, as the legislature is giving with one hand and taking away with the other.”

But Dov Rosenberg, a teacher at Rogers-Herr Middle School, said it’s hard to take issue with the loss of longevity pay.

The 13 year-veteran educators said even with the loss of longevity pay, his salary will increase.

“Teacher pay is moving in the right direction, but that doesn’t address the real concerns we have,” Rosenberg said.

He said those concerns include keeping classroom sizes reasonable, restoring lost teaching assistants and ensuring that all students have an equitable opportunity to receive a quality education.

Rosenberg said he worries that too much emphasis has been placed on teacher pay.

“We need to be focused on the kids,” Rosenberg said. “Teachers are focused on the kids. Parents are focused on the kids and the state needs to be focused on the kids.”