Wake County sounds alarm on teacher shortage


It's a dramatic increase in the number of educators resigning and a dwindling supply of qualified teachers to fill empty positions.

For example, at Raleigh's Underwood Elementary, two teachers have already left this year and two more plan to leave before the end of the school year. That's 25 percent of the school's teachers lost.

The school district says it's a growing trend at schools across Wake County. More and more teachers are quitting and finding qualified teachers to take their place is becoming extremely difficult.

The news comes as the debate escalates over teacher pay in North Carolina. Teachers have seen just one salary increase since 2008 and now rank among the lowest paid in the country.

Republicans have proposed raising starting salaries for new talent - but offer no boost for veteran educators.

Frustrated and fed up, teachers have resorted to leaving the state or getting out of the profession all together.

"Some teachers have said teaching is like breathing, that's how much I need to teach. And I think if they can't find a teaching profession in North Carolina that is rewarding them with a professional salary, they're going to look elsewhere," said Wake County School Board Chair Christine Kushner.

On Monday, a General Assembly task force issued its recommendations for overhauling public school teacher compensation.

But the final report of the Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force lacked a detailed road map on how to improve salaries for all educators and evaluate teacher performance to reward the best instructors.

Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders already want to approve legislation during the legislative session starting next month to raise the base salary floor to $33,000 this fall and $35,000 for fall 2015. The current state starting salary of $30,800 is making it difficult to recruit teachers or keep them from going to other states.

"There's no doubt that the base pay of teachers is the major priority and other priorities to get pay raises for all state employees including all teachers. But I've also got a constitutional responsibility to balance the budget," McCrory said.

McCrory and lawmakers have said salary increases to all teachers depend on the state's fiscal picture. Raising the salary floor to $35,000 will cost around $200 million over two years.

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