Editor’s note: Last week’s guest column by Durham Public Schools math teacher Terry McCann, “Why this Durham teacher isn’t going to Raeigh May 16” generated tremendous response, pro and con, incuding these comments:
Now is the time
Terry McCann has a right to his opinion, but he’s being dramatic. This is a huge issue for our state, and all support is needed.
There are three weeks left before summer break and this is the time for field days, assemblies, team building, etc. Had this been planned in March, I’d probably be more conflicted. But now, all the money spent for copier paper and requests for classroom repairs over the school year have taken their toll.
We need to let the General Assembly know that we need more money for our school in next year’s budget!
Where my kid will be
Why yes, I do know where my kid will be on May 16. Instead of taking his now-rescheduled A.P. exam, he’ll be in Raleigh with friends (because going with his parents is too boring), advocating for more support for public education in North Carolina. It’s hard to imagine a more educational field trip for his Civics and Econ class (I’m pretty sure his teacher will be in Raleigh too). And as he has already survived losing essential class time every day a snow flake has fallen anywhere in Durham county over the past 12 years, I think he and his education will survive May 16.
The future of our state
Terry, your experience in Durham is not equal to smaller rural districts. I am not marching for more pay, I am marching because of the drop in per pupil funding that has caused my school to lose valuable resources we need for our students.
Yes, education is the biggest item of the state budget, but the future of the state economy depends on an educated population. If you are a native North Carolinian, you yourself have benefitted from the education you recieved when our schools were better funded and teachers were treated like professionals.
The bottom line
Thank you for writing this article, Terry! I’d like to raise a handful of points:
1) If you check your employee compensation package, you’ll find that you’re entitled to three personal days a year. If you choose to take a personal day, that is, by state law, your right – and the day on which you do so is not your students’ day any more, but your own. Teachers who requested personal leave before their district changed May 16 to a non-student day were not planning to protest on their students’ time, but on their own time; that’s what it means to take a personal day.
2) Yes, salary has been raised by the N.C. General Assembly (NCGA) – but not to pre-recession levels. My own salary, as an 11th-year teacher, is $96 a month less than it would have been if the NCGA had simply adjusted the 2007-08 salary schedule to match inflation. A couple of years ago I examined all the salary schedules since I started teaching, and concluded that the NCGA’s toying with my salary had cost me about $20,000 over the course of my career.
3) Besides salary, our compensation package includes other benefits. Insurance, for example, has been slashed astonishingly by the NCGA. I now pay about $200 a month more for my family’s insurance than I paid a few years ago. We no longer qualify for ABC pay, or for longevity pay; these benefits were rescinded by a penny-pinching NCGA.
4) As a math teacher, I’m sure you’re familiar with the manipulation of statistics. I encourage you to investigate these numbers yourself. Look especially at the bottom line: how much is our state spending per pupil, and how does this number compare to pre-recession levels?
5) This last point is key: the Democrats lost control of the legislature during the deepest recession since the Great Depression. If you want to compare how our current Republican NCGA is doing, it’s inappropriate to compare their funding levels to those of the year in which they took control; rather, compare their funding levels to those of the years before the recession--that is, in 2007 and before.
6) Our legislature is terrible at many things – funding education foremost among them – but I can’t fault their politicking. They’re masters of spin. Your article uncritically repeats several of the talking points distributed by the N.C. GOP, which is a wonderful way to magnify their spin. I encourage you, going forward, to maintain a deep skepticism of anyone trying to sell you a bill of goods. This includes myself: you, and anyone else reading this comment, should do their own research on these numbers, and not just trust my claims at face value.
A pre-emptive strike
Do teachers have legitimate gripes? Of course. However, this was not the way to do it. I'll be in my classroom. Enjoy Raleigh.
I just think many are being had by the Democrats to be useful idiots in the voting booths this coming November. The General Assembly was actually working on a teacher pay raise before all of this hit and was due to roll it out over the next couple of weeks. No, this was a pre emptive strike to undercut the General Assembly here.
Go do your research and find out who's behind the funding for the busing and promotion of this. It wasn't started by a teacher in a classroom. I'll guarantee you that. By the way, everyone walking off the job on Wednesday, what do you say to the hourly employees that you have inconvenienced that day? Because of what you are doing, they won't get paid their hourly wage that day. I hope you can look the bus drivers, the cafeteria workers in the custodians in the face and explain this to them. How your needs override theirs. This could have waited until a weekend or the summer.
What’s needed to teach
I am 53 years old. When I was in third grade, the school I was in was 60 years old. We had a blackboard. The decorations consisted of the ABCs written in print and in cursive on posterboard across the wall above the blackboard. We had 20 minutes free recess outdoors twice per day.
Our teacher read to us after lunch, while we rested our heads on our desks. We heard great stories carefully selected by our teacher to encourage our imaginations and open doors to realities unfamiliar to us in a very small town in rural North Carolina. We learned everything a third grader needed to know. We played. We said the pledge of allegiance. We knew a trip to the office was a bad thing and even worse when we got home.
The problem with whining about what teachers are lacking in resources is that we all went to school, and I doubt any of us felt like the decorations in our classroom made much difference. We all know what is needed to teach and that all the resources in the world cannot make you a better teacher. Teachers who are claiming that they only care about the children are undermined when they bring up how poorly they are paid. Thirty-nine percent of the N.C. budget goes to public education. If teachers want to cross state lines for higher pay, then thy should go. Nothing is stopping them.
Teachers (even in N.C.) are paid more than most other public servants. There are nearly 100,000 teachers in this state. Just how much pay do they think is fair? $5,000/yr for each teacher would cost taxpayers $500 million. Do teachers deserve more than firefighters or police officers (they make far more than most of them). Teachers complain more now than they ever have and the quality of education keeps declining. Money is NOT going to fix the problems we have in education. Money is not going to make better teachers. Money is not going to make all of those parents they deal with better parents. Money is not going to make students learn better.
Tina Hill Stanton
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