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LETTERS / What About Our Future?

Dear Editor,

There’s a lot of information in the news about what is going on in North Carolina’s classrooms these days – class sizes, pay raises, technology, the improvements.  But have you heard much from actual teachers?  We would like to give you some perspective from a few veteran teachers’ point of view, who, by the way, love what they do.

Funding is a very misunderstood part of the teaching profession. Classes are larger due to cuts in the number of teachers.  The number of teaching assistants continues to dwindle. We have had salary freezes for 9 years, lost our longevity pay, and receive no classroom funding for things needed on a daily basis. Over the years classroom supply money has gone from several hundred dollars, to one hundred, to not one single dollar.  Now we have to beg parents for basic supplies like tissue, trash bags, pencil and paper.

Longevity pay for experienced teachers has been taken away and that money has all gone into the teachers’ salary schedule.  Other state employees will still get their longevity as a separate benefit. But if you are a 23 year veteran teacher, the amount lost in longevity pay is greater than the tiny raise given to veteran teachers.  These teachers are taking a pay cut instead of getting a much needed raise.  New teachers get much, much larger raises than the people who have served this state with their hard work and effort.  Is this right?

In addition, after Aug. 6th, there will be no more master’s degree compensation.  We are the only state in the nation that does not pay its employees for higher degrees.  Don’t we want highly trained teachers?  Where are North Carolina’s expectations for excellence?

Having technology in the classroom is wonderful.  But now that we are dependent on it, we find it can double our work.  Since the internet is often down, students and teachers cannot use their devices. When planning, teachers have to have a plan using all the 21st century technology, but they also have to have a backup plan for when technology is not working. One school in Watauga County has 11 classrooms with either a Smartboard, an Elmo, an image projector or other technology that does not work because there is not enough money in the budget to maintain these machines. Technology is only as good as the maintenance it receives.

And finally, any time school is not in session, drive by a school and you will see cars. These cars belong to teachers working for free. We go to meetings, fall festivals, parent nights, trainings of all types. We plan and prepare.  With so many requirements, our volunteer hours are a necessity.

Some lawmakers in Raleigh are trying to paint a rosy picture of North Carolina’s schools, but we are feeling a lack of respect from the state and are struggling to keep our public schools as excellent as they once were.  Without strong schools, where will it leave the citizens of North Carolina?  What about our future?

Angie Austin and Laura Johnson