Parents share North Carolina teacher flight stories

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Financially strapped and fed up, Apex High School guidance counselor, Chris Stiel quit in search of better pay and benefits.

"We had to sell our house. We couldn't afford to live within a 15 to 20 mile radius of my school because it's so expensive on that side of town and probably for years to come because we were unsure if raises were ever going to come," said Stiel.

After just three years working as an educator in North Carolina, Stiel reluctantly turned in his resignation and moved back to his home state of Ohio. There, he'll get an instant $12,000 raise.

"I knew here I would get a 3-percent to 5-percent raise every year, whereas, in North Carolina, I couldn't take that risk for my family," said Stiel.

Pasquotank County kindergarten teacher Mary Taylor also left North Carolina for greener pastures. She had been teaching for seven years, stuck with an annual salary of $33,000, and forced to move in with her sister when she was recruited by a Texas school district at a recent job fair. Now she's getting a $16,000 raise.

"I felt like I would be appreciated in this school district," said Taylor. "It just sounded like where I wanted to be."

Broughton High School parent Betsy Bennett is now collecting stories like these to highlight the growing teacher flight problem in North Carolina. She's helping other parents post them on social media, hoping to get the attention of lawmakers battling over teacher pay.

"The market is speaking, and it's saying that these teachers can be paid better elsewhere," said Bennett.

An annual state report shows the number of teachers leaving the classroom reached a five-year high during the 2012-2013 school year. The report states school systems had an average teacher turnover rate of 14.33-percent. By contrast, 12.13-percent of teachers left their districts during the 2011-2012 school year.

But not everyone agrees North Carolina is in crisis mode.

"At this point, we don't have any evidence that there's a mass teacher exodus. The numbers that we have from last year were slightly larger than the year prior, but certainly we've seen years of turnover that have been almost just as high, " said Dr. Terry Stoops with the John Locke Foundation.

The report also doesn't reflect how many teachers are choosing to leave over teacher pay.

That's why Stiel is sharing his story.

"When they see real people like us leaving and getting significantly better deals, I hope that it makes a difference," said Stiel.

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