Editorial: Teachers shouldn’t have to keep doing more with less

Mar. 07, 2013 @ 08:25 PM

Sometimes it seems that public schools in Durham make progress despite the best efforts of politicians who pay lip service to the idea of more effective schools while pushing for salary freezes (or cuts) and onerous measurement tests for teachers.

The North Carolina Board of Education on Wednesday got a report on how our state ranks against the rest of the nation in paying the teachers who are responsible for shaping young minds.

You may be pleased to know we aren’t dead last. But we’re not much higher than that.

At an average salary of $45,933 last year, North Carolina teachers make $10,000 less than the U.S. average reported by the National Education Association. One in nine makes the lowest base salary, $30,800, because they don’t start seeing decent raises until their fifth year.

We’re 46th in the country for paying our teachers. In the southeastern U.S., we’re ahead of only Mississippi and West Virginia.

For all our talk of wanting to recruit and retain quality teachers, we certainly aren’t doing enough to discourage them from taking jobs at better-paying public charter or private schools.

In an Associated Press article, Darcy Grimes, North Carolina Teacher of the Year, said she knows of five regional winners who might quit public school education to find greener pastures.

“Teachers are tired,” Grimes said. “They’re spending more time than ever before to help their students and to get them where they need to be.”

On top of trying to implement courses around the new Common Core curriculum, our poorly paid teachers are also expected to work in schools that will be assigned morale-slapping letter grades. They also must give the new Common Exam, which is just another test in an already test-heavy educational process, except this one is intended to help define the effectiveness of the teacher.

So, just to get it all straight: Politicians want public school teachers run through the grinder and held to high standards, but they can’t – or won’t – pay them the wages they deserve for the effort.

It may be nothing short of a miracle that we’re able to report that graduation rates are climbing and that academic proficiency is on the rise in Durham.

But how much longer can we expect our teachers to keep doing more with less?

We hope legislators in Raleigh can do better by them in the upcoming budget cycle.