Some educators worry about future in North Carolina

A Moral Monday protest in Raleigh in late July.
July 31, 2013 4:11:52 AM PDT
Education remains on the front burner in North Carolina. Now, the state superintendent of schools says she's worried about its future here.

Dr. June Atkinson is concerned about what the new state budget will mean for recruiting new teachers and keeping the ones we have. In Wake County, there are more than 200 unfilled teaching jobs. In Durham County, there are almost 200.

However, after Republicans took away their job security in the budget, and didn't give them a raise when their average pay is near the bottom of the pack nationally, some are wondering why a new teacher would want one of those jobs or any in this state.

Teachers gathered Monday in Raleigh wearing red shirts to show their tide of discontent.

They are not happy with changes pushed by Republicans in this last budget. Their job security was taken away. Their advanced degrees are no longer netting a bigger paycheck. They got no raise despite a new voucher program with public money helping put disadvantaged kids in private schools.

Larry Nilles heads up the teacher's association in Wake County.

"What they're telling me is this makes them feel like the General Assembly doesn't care about the work they do," said Nilles.

Because of that feeling, the chatter among many teachers now is what to do about it. Some already have one foot out the door.

"They want to go," said Nilles. "They're looking for ways out."

That has Atkinson concerned.

"We have begun to see high turnover rates, with first, second, and third year teaching," said Atkinson. "That scares me."

Republican Rep. Paul Stam says the budget he voted for, and the one that Gov. Pat McCrory signed includes merit pay for the best teachers, albeit $500, and added money to the overall k-12 pot, which is about $200 million more than last year.

"It's around a 2 percent increase," said Stam. "This whole idea that we cut k-12 education is factually not correct."

What Stam isn't taking into account, according to Atkinson, are the 17,000 new students that will be in North Carolina schools next year.  She also charges Republicans found much of the extra money through an accounting shell game.

"When all the dust has settled, we will see that per student funding in North Carolina has been reduced," said Atkinson.

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