Why this Durham teacher isn't going to Raleigh May 16

Terry McCann
Terry McCann

Durham Public Schools parents — Do you know where your kids will be on May 16?

As you probably know by now, there will be a teacher workday that day due to the high number, over 1,000, of DPS teachers taking the day off to protest what they consider to be poor teaching conditions in the system.

As a DPS teacher, I will be in my classroom May 16 planning for the next school day and away from the madness in Raleigh. I do not support the movement especially on the backs on our students.

The DPS school board voted unanimously to have a teacher workday instead of having an early release day as recommended by Superintendent Pascal Mubenga.

Now don’t mark me wrong I have not supported everything the GOP legislature has implemented. I did not approve of the General Assembly not paying future teachers with a master’s higher pay, nor did I fully like not giving veteran teachers a raise so that newer teacher beginning salaries would be higher than they ever were under Democratic leadership

One of my students asked me if I was taking May 16 off. When I told her no, she asked “Why?” I addressed her issues with a counter question: “Why do you think teachers are protesting?” She said, “Better pay?” I responded and made the following points:

Teachers got a raise last year. The average teacher salary has risen 12 percent over the past five years, from $45,000 a year. Since taking control of the state legislature in 2011, Republicans have raised the starting base salary for new teachers to $35,000 and given raises to other teachers. The average teacher salary is over $50,000. I referenced a news story where a teacher was complaining that was a lie since she made under $50,000. My student reasoned that she must have had less “experience” Out of the mouth of babes. Teacher raises are likely to again be a hot issue this year with control of the General Assembly at stake in the fall elections. Republican lawmakers say their goal is to raise average teacher salaries to $55,000 a year by 2020.

We talk about schools being not funded well. Schools and school systems are always asking for more but not showing results. About 39 percent of the state budget goes toward education. In Durham, for instance, so many of our students are not proficient in reading and math. This has nothing to do with the funding even though more funding has been allocated to education. I stressed to my student the quality education she gets from me – her Math I teacher. All I request from my principal are dry erase board markers and plenty of paper instead of all the latest tech. I would ask my DPS colleagues protesting this question. “Are you doing all you can to TEACH our students?” Some are but most are not. When teachers set low expectations for students, limited learning outcome are achieved, but when you set the bar high I am never amazed with what I see.

Parents new to Durham and North Carolina have been bathed in the progressive rhetoric that North Carolina is a backward state. Being a the product of a K-12 education in North Carolina I can attest that North Carolina from the '70s to the 2010s has been on the low end of the totem pole in teacher pay and student expenditure – all under Democratic governors (except for the Jim Martin term) and Democratic General Assemblies. It was until the McCrory administration that I received a substantial raise, having receiving zilch while Perdue was governor. Even while Hillary was campaigning in North Carolina in 2016 she referenced that teachers cannot live off what they make here.

Video: Lee County school teacher Sandi Shover is one of many educators to speak out about budget cuts to education and how it affects teachers.

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The average teacher’s salary is more than triple the minimum wage. It’s also enough to keep a family of nine out of poverty. For a more traditional family of four, it’s about double the poverty level. Should teachers be paid more? Yes! Some teachers should be paid more but some need to be fired! Abolish tenure, reward teachers for excellence in the classroom and reward principals for improving the learning outcomes for kids. Additionally, bringing back vocational programs in our schools and abolishing the Common Core curriculum and replacing it with a classical approach can help. To my DPS colleagues protesting on May 16 please don’t ever complain about students doing another teacher’s work during your class. You are protesting and doing your thing on the students' time.

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