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By Joel Orr Joel Orr taught high school English for six years and is currently enrolled full-time towards his Master's of English. He is the editor of and sole contributor to abirdonawire.com.

A Teacher’s Letter to the General Assembly

By Joel Orr Posted June 5, 2013 at 2:51 pm

You can find Joel on Twitter at @abirdonawire, or read Part II of his letter, here

Dear Members of the NC General Assembly,

I was flipping through bill 402 for some light reading, and I found three lines that struck me as rather important.  Surely, these three lines weren’t buried within an over-400 page document in hopes they might just slide by, right?  For your convenience, I copied and pasted the words below.

PHASE OUT CERTAIN TEACHER SALARY SUPPLEMENTS

SECTION 8.22. Notwithstanding Section 35.11 of this act, no teachers or instructional support personnel, except for school nurses, shall be paid on the “M” salary schedule or receive a salary supplement for academic preparation at the six-year degree level or at the doctoral degree level for the 2014-2015 school year, unless they were paid on that salary schedule or received that salary supplement prior to the 2014-2015 school year.

So, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page – this tiny section states that teachers who are not receiving master’s pay in the upcoming school year will not receive it in 2014-2015, no matter if they earn a master’s or Ph.D.

Meaning, if I may be so bold,

Teachers will not have fiscal inspiration to enroll in a master’s program or complete one currently in-progress.  The bill isn’t saying they shouldn’t, of course – we can’t have that impression – it simply states that the debt taken on by enrolling in a master’s program won’t be paid back by a higher salary.  This means teachers with higher education, some whom we could call “Doctor,” are as valuable to the state as 22 year olds with a bachelor’s degree.

Interesting.

Oh!  And dear Members of the NC Legislature, I copied and pasted a few words from the state constitution. I will paste them below for your convenience.

Each Senator/Representative shall represent, as nearly as may be, an equal number of inhabitants, the number of inhabitants that each Senator represents being determined for this purpose by dividing the population of the district that he represents by the number of Senators apportioned to that district.

So, if I may,

The job of the Legislature is to represent the people of the state, broken into districts.  Yes? Of course it is!  We know this, because we learned it in elementary school!  Some of us learned it in public elementary school, but don’t fret – we got our tetanus shots.

* * *

Dear Members of the NC General Assembly,

I would like to introduce you to my wife.  She is the teacher of the year at a North Carolina elementary school.  It’s a public school.  My wife is currently enrolled at a UNC-system university to earn her Master’s of Education.

That means she’ll be even better at her job.

She’s pregnant (oh – it’s a girl!) with our baby.

So,

My wife works a full time job of loving and teaching 3rd graders, interacts with parents, is an active member within the school environment, puts up with me, goes to graduate classes and works her heart out doing the work assigned, and is pregnant.

We made the decision for her to enroll in school for a master’s because it would be a long term gain for our family – she would earn more over her career with the masters pay, and the extra salary would help erase the debt taken on in student loans for her program.

I, too, am enrolled in a master’s program in a UNC-system school.

We decided, dear Members of the Assembly, hard work was worth the effort because higher salaries would be a boon to our family.  Instead, if the bill goes through as is, with those three sneaky lines, our family will simply be facing more debt, because of loans, without a means to pay them back.

My wife is an inhabitant of this state whom you swore to represent.

I am an inhabitant of this state whom you swore to represent.

Our daughter will very soon be an inhabitant of this state whom you swore to represent.

Thousands upon thousands of students within the public school system are inhabitants of this state whom you swore to represent.

My wife deserves your best.

My sweet daughter deserves your best.

The students deserve your best.

So, maybe it would be a good idea to keep the masters salary as is.  Maybe it would be a good idea to support teachers becoming better teachers so our schools can be better schools and our students better leaders for tomorrow.

Maybe it would be silly to keep stripping public schools of resources, such as TA’s, raising class sizes, and removing incentive to earn higher education degrees, while wondering why public schools are struggling.

* * *

I tell ya what,

Go have surgery done in a hospital with no nurses and a doctor just out of med school, who also has to provide your anesthesia, and has 20 or so other patients that day, and I’ll be cool with your bill as-is.

Make good choices, and remember that you represent all of us.

-Joel

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