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A Teacher’s Letter to the General Assembly

A Teacher’s Letter to the General Assembly

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.


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.


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.


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.



  1. Linda Livaudais

    From a former public school teacher—Way to Go!

  2. becky albritton

    Well done and thoughtful reflection. I hope some in the legislature read it!

    • Laura

      Well said.

    • Gary Roth

      If they can read? I hear many of them are “home schooled,” which, for many in the state, means little education, and little desire to be educated.

      • mary coffey

        Dear Mr Roth – I take offense at your statement about homeschooling. Both of my children were “home schooled”. My son finished his 1st year of college with a 4.0 GPA and my daughter just completed her junior year and has a 3.798 GPA. My daughter’s goal in life is; after graduating from college with a degree in counseling – to rescue trafficked girls, open a safe haven for them and to train them to be self-sufficient without having to sell their bodies. So, Mr. Roth – to us “homeschooling” was a means to help them become self-sufficient in their learning so that they may conquer the world. I do not mean to take anything away from public school teachers – but please do not belittle “homeschooling” which evidently you know little about.

        • mstern70

          Your kids rock! That says a lot of how you are teaching your children and how they are being successful! Your daughters career goal is awesome! That is something I would definitely be behind and support!

        • Kristy

          Thank you, Mary. As a homeschooling parent, I was very offended by Gary’s uneducated statement, but I see that you took care of it.

          • Alan Holcombe

            For some homeschooling is a wonderful event for both student and teacher. However, only a few are qualified both by education or time or both. The real strength of our Nation is a strong educational system that address the best and the most that may be offered our children. Any reduction in this process is a cancer upon the health of our future. Right now, it doesn’t look to positive.

      • SilverNC

        Mr. Roth, as a public school teacher, I too take offense to this comment. From my experience, home schooled students who enter public school (for whatever reason) have a better grade-level vocabulary, better math skills, are harder workers, more respectful, etc. Most parents, that I know, who choose to home school their children hold some type of professional degree – meaning they went to and finished college and sometimes beyond. It takes a lot of work to choose to home school your children. Maybe you should go visit some of the home school organization and see what they are doing before making a snap judgement call.

        • Bob, M.D.

          Thank you for your comment. AGREE! Our 3 children, now adults, were all home schooled through high school, and are now professionals who were VERY successful in their college education.

      • Ty Quinn

        My children are home schooled as well. Both started out in public schools but the over crowded state of the school left them lacking in basics i.e. reading and writing. I as a parent and former public school teacher took it upon myself to teach them. Both read at a higher grade level than their public school friends. Both hunger to learn unlike their public school friends. Next time don’t be so quick to call out a group of people you don’t truly understand. Much respect. Ty Quinn

  3. Organic Marble

    It’s awful when personal long term plans get wrecked by dumb government decisions.

    I am a former space shuttle engineer.

    • Jared Barber

      Not an engineer in apt analogies I see…

    • SilverNC

      I think “devastated” would be a better description of what this president did to the shuttle program and all the effects it had on the local economy.

      • TomInRaleigh

        By “this president” you must mean George W. Bush because he is the one who ended the shuttle program. Look it up.

        Great letter by the way. Too bad it took action by lunatic zealots for me to engage in state level politics. But boy am I now.

  4. Trina @

    I am a teacher in NY state. This is well said and we need more voices like yours. Without good teachers there cannot be doctors, lawyers, plumbers, politicians.

    I get compensated for my master’s degree and I am required to have it to teach in this state.

    Keep fighting the good fight!

  5. Vesta Watson

    Way to tell it like it is, Joel! As a former public school educator, it breaks my heart to see what they are trying to do to public education.

  6. lovedabunny (@lovedabunny)

    Blah, Blah, Blah, Not sure you have heard but we are in a recession buddy. Most people are just happy to have a job right now and no one is getting a raise in the real world. Certainly nobody is experiencing a “Boon to their family” like you expect to yours. When my son entered law school, first year lawyers we making around $70,000 per year. When he came out of law school 3 years later there were no jobs so he started his own firm and made $20,000 his first year. Now he has $250,000 in student loans to pay off. You get no sympathy from me or anyone else unless they are teachers as well. So, Quit your whining and take this economy like the rest of us.

    • Anna

      I went to law school buddy – last time I checked, your son had to have a high school diploma and a college degree to go. Guess the TEACHERS who taught him aren’t important enough to you to get paid a living wage. There is no education without teachers. This isn’t a measure of the fact your son can’t get a job, it’s an issue of the priorities of the government – and there is money to find for our children.

      • Jared Donahue

        Damn right Anna. And i dont think this post was in search of your sympathy either. it was more a demand for logic in the NC legislature.

        • Bruce Baer

          Logic in the Legislature – a TRUE Paradox in Terms! It is truly sad that our Lawmakers have undertaken a systematic path to completely DESTROY our Public Education System.

          • Betty Foster

            Was it you, sir, who taught your son to read well, think critically and analyze well enough to pass the GRE? Have you looked at teacher salaries, which have been frozen for years in NC? Your son will choose your nursing home. Is he as compassionate as you are, because if he is, that explains my laughter! Luckily, we don’t teach for money…………if we did, education would change and it would not be pretty.

      • Aricia C

        The reality is that in the future his son may be one of the politicians supporting the idiotic plans the legislature are trying to implement.

        As a 5th year teacher, I went into this profession with a passion to educate students and develop them as a whole. With limited resources or support it IS difficult to achieve that, though I try because of my passion. I planned to return to school within the next two years to further my knowledge to better serve my students. With this new bill, personally I feel less motivated because I won’t receive financial gains, but I WILL go because I want to enhance the lives of OUR future society. Without me, and the thousands of other educators in this state and the passion for this profession, just imagine where we are headed as a state. There aren’t low performing schools in our state because of a lack of highly qualified educators; there are low performing schools due to the lack of resources and support, as well as highly qualified teachers who have sought work elsewhere. Food for thought…let it marinate.

    • Anonymous Man

      This difference being that a lawyer has the potential to make a six-figure salary after some acquired experience and a public teacher in NC with a Doctorate AND 35+ years of experience can’t even get close to breaking $70,000. This bill takes away even the slightest incentives for teachers to educate themselves more and become better educators themselves in the process. When are we going to stop shafting our educational staff? We (NC) have the eleventh lowest average public teacher salary in the country, but the tenth largest GDP.

      Public school teachers to lawyers is a lazy comparison at best.

      • Mikriam Grissom

        As a 30 plus year veteran teacher with a Master’s Degree who makes about HALF of that $75 K salary, it wasn’t a lazy comparison, it was ignorant.

    • Dana Alexander

      Hey lovedabunny, you have a typographical error in your post. Maybe you are not sympathetic towards teachers because no one ever taught you to proof read.

    • Eileen

      This isn’t even about raises–teachers haven’t been getting pay increases either (what is it–for five years now?). It’s about being offered pay commensurate to one’s experience and education.

      • SilverNC

        Eileen, you are spot on. NC HAS FAILED TO LIVE UP TO ITS PROMISE OF PAYING EVEN FOR EXPERIENCE. It’s called STEP PAY. Teachers and State workers haven’t even received that pay even though there is a salary schedule when they are hired that says they will get more pay for each year of experience.

    • Jim

      Are you suggesting that all public school teachers should quit teaching and start their own schools? Interesting thought. Of course they would have to charge for their services… You son’s education debt would have started not 7 years before he started his law firm, but 20 (this assumes only kindergarten through high school; no pre-k education). That $250,000 of debt would be rather a bit more had that been the case, don’t you think?

      It is a shame that your son only made $20k his first year out of school. He could have expected to make $33,880 this past year as a first year teacher in NC… oh wait. make that $30,800 (less than half what your son expected for the same level of education) since advanced degrees don’t matter. Assuming, of course a teaching job was even available to him, of course.

      If he chose to pursue his JD, would he not demand a higher salary? Why is teaching different? Joel is not whining, but a merely requesting that a value be placed on education in the field of education.

      On a side note about the economy, I have a close group of friends that, including me, consists of 10 people. Of the 10 of us one lost her job in the recession. She has thankfully gotten a new job… with better pay, I might add. Of the 10 of us, the teacher is the ONLY one of us who is not making significantly more than they were 3, 4, or even 5 years ago. I recognize that this is not typical, but we are not typical people. We are all driven to be successful. If nothing else, this should give you hope in your son’s potential to eliminate his student loans.

    • Linda

      lovedabunny, your son’s income issues is a direct result of way too many law schools producing too many lawyers. A simple case of supply and demand. I am a veterinarian, we are experiencing similar issues in my profession so I know I am right on this. There is no comparison between private sector professions and public employees. My husband is a teacher with a Masters degree. specialist certificate, college teaching experience, and 23 years in the profession. He makes maybe $45,000. No one will want to be teachers in North Carolina if the war on public education continues, and as a result the state will become less attractive to businesses. High tech companies with well paying jobs, and employees that want good schools for their kids will leave or decide to not come here. We will all suffer. And there will be even fewer jobs for lawyers and the rest of us in the private sector. This is a very short sighted plan.

    • Alina Ortega

      No we don’ t have to take it, it’s a democracy!

    • Patricia Leonard

      For “lovedabunny”, here is a link to a “somewhat comedic” spin on this conversation. I really like the opening statement…t”This is called: What teachers make, or objection overruled, or if things don’t work out, you can always go to law school.”

      • Eileen

        Love this. 🙂

  7. Gerald smith

    To blah, etc, did you notice the very first thing our governor did was “give” his cabinet a 9% raise? And my sympath is with teachers, and all who work in our education system, there is no higher calling and am not a teacher. Speak for yourself as that really is the only one you can speak for!

    • mstern70

      Thank you, Gerald!

    • Leigh

      I work part time in a doctors office and try to volunteer in children’s classroom as much as I can. I have 4 children. Every time I leave the classroom I always think to myself, it is very hard to have 4 kids at home and sometimes they drive me crazy but these teachers do it day in and day out with 23-30 kids in their class! They do it with love, compassion and patience. I always say they don’t pay teachers enough, I know I couldn’t do it. Takes a very special person, just like being a doctor, nurse, lawyer or such. Kudos to incentives for higher education to help make their job easier and our kids smarter!

  8. Susan Richards

    Well said! Sure hope someone listens!

  9. Sheila

    Your article pretty much covers it except all the years that teachers and state employees have been passed over for cost of living and step raises. In the 28 years I worked I have gone as much as six years with no change in my salary. You do not catch up from that. Love of the profession is not enough any more, your family suffers from your choice to follow your passion. Teaching takes more time than ever, pays less compared to other jobs and expects a person to literally lay your life on the line if the situation warrants.

    • Mary

      Here, Here!!

  10. Cleveland McLemore

    Movement politics can make a real difference, least we forget Wisconsin’s war on teachers, and the 99%. We need to expose this austerity insanity for the Bull S— that it is, a thinnly veiled transnational ALEC alliance hell bent on repealing the New Deal and Great Society at one fell swoop. Unfortunately, these tea party plants wish nothing more than to dismantle public education and turn it over to a voucher system with unfettered dissemination of whatever anti-science politcal agenda they wish to supplant for the actual truth of reality.

    “Barry Goldwater’s words resonate from his grave today.”

    “Goddamn it, John … the Republicans are selling their soul to win elections … Mark my word … if and when these preachers get control of the party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem.” — Barry Goldwater as told to John Dean

    This is how the Tea Party was stollen power, and now with all the Gerrymandering intend on keeping it. We need to step up to fight fire with fire.
    Concord Project videos: What is a precinct and how it works The importance of precinct committee members How you become a precinct committee member The time committment for a precinct committee person

    Austerity is an illusion created by the “Two Santa Clause” theory way back under Reagan who won in no small part due to the help of the Lee Atwater strategy so well documented in the film…/badboy.htm

    This is what we are up against and anti-intellectual us vs them strategy that is an unholy alliance between far right extremist backed by transnational interest courtesy of citizens united. They make no bones about their intentions to remove any reference to critical thinking in public education. Humanities and civics are the first to go.

    In closing here are a few things to consider,

    Hartmann on anonymous

  11. Terri

    Looks like a class action lawsuit will help the current policy makers understand this behavior is unacceptable!

  12. Judy Cox

    From a recently retired teacher with a Master’s degree and National Board Certification, well said. Many of us worked very hard and burned the candle at both ends in order to become better teachers through rigorous demands made on us by grad school and through the national board process. WE learned how to be better teachers and thought by doing so we were empowering our students become better citizens…..we were trying to lead by example. Too bad the legislators did not have teachers for parents!!!

  13. Cheryl Hall

    Well said! I am so thankful that I am retired from what I considered a noble, respected profession. Obviously, our current legislative body doesn’t consider teaching to be noble or to be respected!

  14. Ray

    Unfortunately, this is what this General Assemby is all about, and this is what’s it has come down to. But remember, some of us/you voted for them.

  15. andreabittle

    Thank you for writing this. All of us need to write, protest, and be heard. Our representatives are NOT representing us! And I was told N.C. is 48th out of 50th in teacher salary. Need to check that out. No pay raise in several years means we are now at a 16% salary loss. That of course impacts our retirement….

  16. NB PhD

    Ah, but those with National Board Certification, a certification offered by a private company, will receive a 12% bonus. I have 2 masters degrees, a Ph.D., and was one of the first NBCTs in my area. National board certification is intended to be a ‘reflection’ of good teaching, not a learning experience. I can vouch from all my time in the classroom that one learns far more about teaching while working towards higher degrees. The law of unintended (or intended?) consequence will also come into play with this bill as students will no longer be entering master’s programs in many fields, thus those programs and the professors who teach them will also be lost to us.

  17. Stacey

    Joeł, I feel you and your wife’s pain. I just started teaching in NC at 41. I am 5 classes away from my masters degree (with no way to finish before the 2014-2015 school year). Well said!! The parents of the NC public school students need to hear this message.

  18. Jane

    Well said. But please don’t promote them by calling them “Congress.’ That’s the folks in Washington. The Raleigh bunch is called the General Assembly, state legislators, hizzhonor, or trouble.

  19. Barbara Walter

    Thanks for speaking the truth for teachers in NC!

  20. Robyn Braswell

    As a public school teacher – AMEN Joel – if only those who chose to represent us would listen to what we as professionals have to say!

  21. Culpepper

    75% of incoming college freshmen need remedial work in English, math, or both (

    Joel, you are simply way over qualified for the task at hand. Your struggle is one of basic economics, not legislation–in other words, supply and demand.Teaching high school students the fundamental skills necessary to take English 101 does not require a Master’s of English.

    Then again, what is the goal of public education today?

  22. Phyllis Parsons

    This is so well done. I would hope that you have made copies (real paper copies) and sent to all the representatives. Otherwise I am not sure they will see this. Could you get this printed in the major cities in NC? That would be sure to get some attention. Good luck with this venture.

  23. Marieka

    I love this. Thanks for doing the letter.

  24. Betty Miller

    ……and all the people said……..AMEN!!!!!

  25. Dane

    Thank you for speaking up! I hope that members of NC assembly read it, think it through and veto this bill!

  26. Annell George-McLawhorn

    Well presented and stated.

  27. Charlotte Black

    From a retired teacher who has a master’s. Well said.

  28. Judy

    So well said!
    The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
    Can’t happen soon enough for me!

  29. James H. Pritchard

    Best get people registered to vote and clean house at the next election.

  30. Kristin

    If you’re all in it for the kids then why are you always complaining about money? How much has been taken from the students so that you’re salary can be increased every year (think art programs, sports, music, etc.)? Also, why go into teaching if you are going to complain about being under paid? You know exactly what you’re getting into before you go to college. Weigh the pros and cons of teaching before you do it. Again, you know exactly what you are getting into BEFORE you pay for your education. You chose to go into a field with lower pay than others. Good teachers are wonderful and I am thankful for the ones who I had. However, as someone said before, this is our economy. This is what most of us are dealing with everyday. It doesn’t matter if you’re a teacher, a lawyer, an accountant, the garbage man, etc. We’re all feeling the pain. Stop complaining all the time about the paycheck that you DO have when so many have nothing. This is not meant to be a knock on all teachers, or even the one who wrote this. Just understand that complaining about what you don’t have is what frustrates so many people. We know that what you do is difficult, and we know that you work hard. So do I. However, I don’t complain about it to anyone and everyone who will listen. Instead, I try to think about what I do have, and I’m thankful to have a job and a steady paycheck. So many people right now do not. Again, I do thank the teachers that I had and the ones who I work with daily. So many of you are exceptional and so many people do appreciate you. Just keep in mind that we are living in a society where we cannot keep asking for more, more, more.

    • abirdonawire


      I’m sorry you feel this letter registers as a complaint – it is intended to ask the General Assembly to refrain from taking away a pay-scale that already exists.

      Teachers who earn higher education degrees are currently paid a higher salary, and I hope it stays that way. I don’t see this as asking for “more.” I see it as hoping the General Assembly will decide to keep a current policy as-is.

      Thanks for the feedback,


    • mstern70

      The thing is Ms. Kristin, that teachers are being a target of our NCGA. Period! Our due process rights are being legislated out, master’s pay/PhD Pay etc. These people paid good hard earned money to earn these degrees with the contract that they would be paid at a higher salary. Currently, I am the sole provider of a family of 4. 5 years ago, I was making more on my bachelor’s salary then I am now on my master’s salary! 5 years ago, all NC Teacher’s salaries were frozen for 5 years! No cost of living, no step (but here’s the kicker… they moved us up our steps; however, no pay was included which I think was breech of contract….) but I digress…

      If you were on a job that gave your performance reviews every year, and your expectation was to get a small raise after that performance review, wouldn’t you be madder than a hornet if you didn’t receive anything for 5 years and you busted your butt day in and day out? Knowing all full and well, that the boss got a raise! I can tell you that superintendents’ supplements or pays went up some… how much I can’t tell you. What do they do on a daily basis? They don’t teach your child. They just create new positions for their buddies or better yet, find some pie in the sky crappy program to waste 100,000 dollars on for the next year!

      The analogy of the doctor doing everything to you in surgery was GREAT! If doctors, lawyers (yes I went there), and any other “profession” was beholden to the NCGA, they would leave in droves if they were treated like teachers! Just like the master teachers will if this becomes law! Then, people will start crying that their child is dumber than a fox. Well, they better wake up and smell the Folgers b/c it is going to happen!

      Yes, our kids need remedial classes; however, did anyone ask the parents what they were doing to help these kids? I bet NOT! Parents want babysitters, not educators. Go hire some joe of the street…. b/c that’s all you’re going to be able to get to teach if this becomes law! Over half of my kids do not have parental support. We had a 5 year old at my school babysitting their 2 year old sibling b/c mom needed her sleep! WTH!? She missed school b/c mommy was too darn lazy to stay awake? REALLY??? That poor kid needs an education, not being a mommy at 5!

      • Kristin

        Don’t even get me started on lousy parenting! I see it everyday too. It’s sad indeed. That being said, there are still a lot of great parents out there too.

        Also, 5 years ago, most people were making more money (not just teachers).

        You asked me to consider having a job where I received a performance review annually and to expect a small raise every year. Well, I recently had that job. Several years ago when the company was doing very well I received a small raise for my efforts. However, the next few years, as the economy declined, and the results of my performance reviews increased, I was told that “due to the slow economy” the company could not offer me a raise. However, the owner of this company went on a 5 week European vacation, bought a 3,000 square foot lake house (his third home), a new SUV, and a Mustang convertible in about a two year span. Meanwhile, I was taking classes to further my education and increase my pay. That didn’t happen. Therefore, I chose to leave and found a new career (one in the field of education – believe it or not!).

        I was lucky enough to find another job in which my efforts do not go unappreciated. While I do understand your frustration, the only thing I want people to consider is that this is happening everywhere. It doesn’t mean that people don’t appreciate teachers. It doesn’t mean that people don’t care. It’s just tough to listen some talk about this like they are the only ones feeling the pain. It’s everywhere.

        Oh, and along with the lousy parenting, don’t even get me started on the governments wasteful spending habits (both parties). If it wasn’t for that, we might all be seeing raises in our respective fields.

        • Christy

          “Therefore I chose to leave and found a new career.”

          Kristin~I’m sorry that you see speaking up for what is wrong in education as complaining. You said when you were treated this way, you chose to leave and find a new career. It is my fear that many great teachers will do exactly the same…leaving only mediocre teachers to educate the next generation. If we don’t speak up, then things certainly won’t change. Respectfully, what you see as complaining, I see as advocating for our kids who deserve better!

    • Eileen

      Sure. We chose to get into a field with lower pay than others. We did not, however, sign up for a career with virtually no option for advancement. And many of us have gone on to get masters degrees (I’m out of teaching but still in education–no master’s pay for my position either under this law) with the well-founded belief that we’d be compensated for the additional value we bring to students with further education. Yes, our economy sucks. However, there are a lot of people who are making a ton of money off of the backs of the middle and lower classes, so until they start making some sacrifices, I don’t particularly appreciate austerity measures directed at my already-paltry livelihood.

      As a teacher, I worked beyond my paid hours (at times in my career, I probably averaged seventy-five hours a week) because that was what it took to serve the kids. It was exhausting, but to a certain extent I understood that was what I signed up for. But I didn’t sign up for a job where I could never make more money than I was making at year 4 (which was the situation when I finally left to pursue my master’s).

  31. Susan Casper, retired teacher with a masters.

    The governor is an ex teacher! Wonder who is running the show? Art Pope? We need to make sure we get rid of everyone up there during the next election. Enough said!

  32. celeste frazier

    Well said! Maybe they shouldn’t pay them their salary and give it to us! I could sure use a raise!

  33. Mary Riley

    I wish these non educators would stop saying “just be thankful for a check.” Especially when that check is not enough to provide for your family. Even if the teaching profession was a choice, to struggle financially was not. If this measure passes, our largest contributors to the state of NC will struggle; public education (colleges included).

    Also for all non educators wanting teachers to stop complaining about the situation remember this, if it wasnt for teachers, you wouldn’t have a high school dipolma or employable skills….or maybe you don’t.

    • Kristin

      Mary Riley- I do have a high school diploma and a college education. I am grateful to my teachers for helping me along the way. I’m also grateful to my parents, my coaches, my siblings, volunteers in the community who came into my classroom, and who invited me in for job shadows and internships. A lot of people made all of us who we are today, not just teachers. And, actually I am in the field of education and spend a lot of time in classrooms. I also have a sister, a brother, and a sister-in-law who are all teachers (or have been teachers). I understand the field quite well, and I appreciate it. That said, take a look around you. Teachers are not the only ones struggling right now. Thats all I’m asking people to consider. And as for not being able to provide for your family on a teachers salary, if that is truly the case, then you are probably over-extending yourself financially. There’s no reason you cannot live on (even a first year) a teachers salary. I lived on less for years working retail and paying my way through college. It’s not easy, but it can certainly be done.

      • mstern70

        AH, right there you have it…. YOU had a support system… not many kids do these days… just saying.

        • Kristin

          Really? Cause I work with volunteers daily. I handle over 5,000 volunteers who choose to go into the schools to work with students. There are still a lot of people who want to do what they can to help students. Support systems are still there. It’s not always in the form of parents, but it is still our teachers, AND coaches, AND members of our community.

      • Sheri

        Kristin, in what capacity do you “spend a lot of time in classrooms”, if I may ask?

        • Kristin

          I work for a non-profit organization who develops educational programs for students K-12. I am in the classrooms observing volunteers, as well as having the privilege of volunteering myself. For the last month I would say I have been in the classroom about 3 out of 5 days a week. Throughout the academic year, it probably would average out to 1 to 2 days a week that I am in the classroom (mainly at the middle and high school level with limited time in elementary classrooms).

          • Ted

            Kristin…you rock!!!

          • Jeanie

            With respect, I would like to intervene and give a current teacher’s view on this conversation.
            I am afraid that you, Kristin, have very little knowledge of what it means to be a teacher today. When I am not on bus duty, I get to school at roughly 7:30am. Due to cutbacks, I no longer have a planning period and must teach four full 90 minute blocks with class sizes varying between 25 and 35 students. Multiply roughly 30 by 4. That’s how many papers I grade almost every night. Since I do not have time to grade these papers during school, I have no choice but to grade them after school. Now, sometimes I can sit right at my desk and grade them, which takes me roughly 1 to 4 hours, depending on the length and weight of the assignment. However, there are things that all teachers are required to do after school such as bus duty or after school detention, a faculty/staff meeting or a parent conference, and then of course teachers are also expected to volunteer at school fundraisers and functions (like sporting events or dances). Sometimes I am at school until 8 or 9pm. Part-time job? Not likely. Even on the weekends, you cannot know if you’re not working. I live in the mountain region of NC. We get snow days and even flood days–we went to school on several Saturdays to make those up.
            Of course, I am one of the lucky ones. I do not have children at home to provide for However, most of my colleagues do. Do you know how much braces cost? My friend who teaches AP English IV does; she paid roughly $8000 for her twins to have braces. They are also thirteen year old boys, which means they eat. A lot. Have you bought groceries for a family of four recently? For a week’s worth, you’re looking at least a $150 bill, maybe even more.
            Then you say, well there are many others who are burdened with similar situations. Well, my sister is one of those people, however she: a) did not go to college and therefore does not have the student loan debt that most teachers are encumbered with; b) has TIME to go get a part-time job, teachers do NOT have that luxury; c) works at a business that does not expect the employees to provide their own supplies, if you volunteered at low-performing schools and knew the amount of budget was slashed, you would realize that many teachers buy their own books, paper, scissors, pencils, pens, crayons, membership fees for teacher resource websites, and so on. We do not expect our schools to pay us back because we care about our students. We spend what little we have to provide for the 100 plus students who walk in that door.
            We are unhappy because our legislature is basically telling us that we are not valuable. That education means nothing to them. Teachers are not dumb people. Most of us felt the calling to teach and became teachers even knowing that we could make more money elsewhere. We do it because we love it. However, if they continue to disregard teachers, to close the window of opportunity and cut back to skeleton wages, we will be forced to choose to seek other employment because in this world, you cannot live off of $30,000/yr (I don’t even make that much!!) when you are the sole provider of a family (heck I can barely break even without a family).
            Then what is North Carolina left with? What kind of teachers are they promoting? Teachers ensure the success of the future generation. What happens when all that is left are the teachers who barely passed college, who were unable to get into a graduate school or just fell into the profession? It cannot be good.
            Most people who have their Master’s degrees are making at least double if not triple or even quadruple (no lie) the amount teachers with Masters’ degrees earn. The small pay raise may not be much, but it shows that the state is at least trying to promote better qualified teachers.
            It’s frustrating to watch this legislature treat education as an unwanted expense instead of what it really is: an investment for the future.

          • Ann

            What is your organization?

        • Mary Riley

          She visits a classroom every now and then just to consider herself as a volunteer, I’m sure. Actually Kristin, you are correct. A first year teacher can survive off of their salary…back in 2003. This is now 2013 and the price of everything has increased. I used to be in education, when there was promise of career growth. I had the foresight to get out when the freezes started. Now I counsel the very teachers who are now in the struggle. A single parent teacher (because there are more of them than you realize) can not live off of the current wages. Yes Kristin, it is hard for everyone but in terms of importance, our educators always seem to come last. No one wants to perform hard work for peanuts, not even you. No one wants to be forced to attend professional developments during their time off, with no pay. These things are expected of teachers and their rewards (i.e. Pay, workdays, planning time) are being compromised.

          Fight the good fight educators!! You all deserve better!!!!

          • Kristin


            First year teacher in North Carolina $30,800 salary. It’s not pretty, but it can be done. I could also suggest a part time job (just like I had when I was making that kind of money after just graduating from college with my degree).

            As for having to attend professional developments during time off with no pay, that’s kind of like me having to go to networking events after work with no pay. It’s not something that I want to do, but I have to for my job.

            And you’re damn right I call myself a volunteer. I’m proud to be one and I assure you I’m in the classroom more than “every now and then.” I will again say that I am also paid for the work that I do to recruit volunteers, and observe them (but my time volunteering is on my own time). I, unlike you (apparently) appreciate the work that volunteers do in the classroom, even if it’s only “every now and then.” I’m sorry that you can’t see the value in having community members in the classroom even if it’s just on occasion.

            How much of your own time do you spend in the classroom now that you don’t teach? Perhaps it’s just every now and then, you know, so you can call yourself a volunteer.

  34. Lisette Perez

    It is the same all over the world. Here in Dominican Republic no one respect teachers, no one wants to become a teacher, no one bealive teachers deserve a better life. So sad, so wrong.

  35. Bill Sorenson

    This legislature is NOT representing the people of NC. They are playing politics. Berger and Tillis both are going to make runs against Kay Hagen and want to have the right credentials: make believe tax cuts, school vouchers, and reigning in those bastard educators. The joke will be on the entire GOP come 2014 when they lose most of what they have gained. I am a Republican but couldn’t vote for these maroons in good conscience.

  36. Kathy Hunter

    Well said! As a former public school teacher who earned a Master’s and National Board Certification, I say it is a shame on the state of North Carolina what is being done to our young teachers. They work their regular school hours and then half the night at home getting ready for the next day. At one point I counted the number of hours I worked in one week at school and at home doing school work and it was almost 100 hours for the week. I did that while raising two children who were in school! I say shame on those who are suppose to be looking out for our teachers and students!

    • Cynthia Jones

      As a former State employee, I too can totally understand this problem in state government. I was told by a Senator from Deep Run, NC, OVER 12 years ago that “it was embarrassing” to address issues of NC State employee salaries. “For far too long, they have suffered at the hands of the budget” and now we are not able to solve the problem. I started State work in 1986. My salary was “frozen” for many years, I trained new employees, who by the way, complained about THEIR pay. My advice: Get out while you can!!!!! RUN and DON’T LOOK BACK!!! When I ended my State ‘career’ in 2007, I was STILL training new staff that complained of their salary. Many of my co-workers HAD to have second jobs, and I’m not just talking new staff, I’m saying 20 to 25 year state veterans. The ‘budget years’ took a toll then and it’s STILL happening today. Longevity incentive pay was taken from us, the vested retired state employee policy was taken, 25 year retirement went to 30 years, raise and step increases went by the wayside, or it happened in black and white BUT NEVER GREEN$$$$$. And then LORD have MERCY MY daughter wanted to TEACH….I BEGGED her to reconsider…..but she followed her HEART. I am sure that down the road, I will see her REGRET that choice, and her HEART will break….she too will need that second job, or at LEAST an additional skill to supplement the ONGOING NC State budget cuts on the backs of State employees. At least she did one thing I asked…….She obtained a skill in college that will enable her to LEAVE state government IF she chooses….. a skill that currently pays a minimum of $30.00 an hour, with travel expenses. I’ll give her a FEW years to get fed up, a few years of FINALLY getting a raise, AND LET US NOT FORGET, that inevitable insurance INCREASE, at the SAME time. SURPRISE, SURPRISE!!!!!!$$$$$$!!!!!!! Oh, and ALL those years you work for the FABULOUS insurance the State offers…..well just to let you in on a little secret….once you qualify for Medicare, the STATE DON”T pay JACK, JACK!!!!!!$$$$$$!!!!!!!

  37. Jerry

    “Teachers will not have fiscal inspiration to enroll in a mater’s program or complete one currently in-progress. ”

    Posted by a teacher and over 60 comments left by many teachers…….yet no one spotted this error?

    • Working Class Citizen

      A typographical mistake in a blog hardly equates to the egregious mistakes being made and considered of the current North Carolina legislature to a group of working class individuals who have met with great vigor every single change, reformation, and pay cut presented to them for many years. The demise of public education is the goal of this legislature.

      The economy is bad for everyone. Really? Banks making multimillion dollar profits. Oil companies that couldn’t possibly spend all the profit they make – not even to benefit society. The smallest percentage of big business profit could perhaps make a huge dent in funding what is left of public education. Why do people bury their head in the sand? Look around carefully. Most big business is making a profit. Most people who have a job are working harder, for less money, and for less benefits while those at the top benefit from the fruit of their labor.

      This legislature considers teachers an entitlement and by all means they are on a path to rid the state of anything that is closely related to an entitlement. Once the total destruction of public education is complete these wealthy legislatures will continue to represent their wealthy donors and the rest can take care of themselves.

      • Jerry

        “A typographical mistake in a blog hardly equates to the egregious mistakes being made and considered of the current North Carolina legislature to a group of working class individuals who have met with great vigor every single change, reformation, and pay cut presented to them for many years.”

        “of the current North Carolina legislature” should be “by”

        Entire paragraph is a run-on sentence.

        A blog written by a teacher about teachers should be free of errors just like a resume. The difference being a blog could be viewed by thousands vs dozens.

        So sad that it took over 60 comments before a State worker with a high school diploma noticed it.

        • Working Class Citizen

          So we are left to assume that you believe this man’s concern is less valid because he left a “t” out of the word “master’s”.

          The content and message are the main points in his blog. And, the message is very timely and urgent.

          And while you’re being so picky, shouldn’t “Entire paragraph is a run-on sentence” begin with the word “The”?

          • Working Class Citizen

            Pardon – “s” out “master’s” not the “t”.

          • Jerry

            You could be correct but then again I am not a teacher!!

        • Eileen

          Former English teacher here: It’s not a run-on; it’s just a wordy sentence. However, you have done a great job at distracting from the actual point of the article and adding no substance at all to the discourse. You get an A+ in Trolling 101!

    • abirdonawire


      Good catch on the typo. Consider it fixed.


    • NC Teacher

      You incorrectly used an ellipsis, instead of a comma. Give it up and read for meaning.

  38. Lucille Yancey

    Well said! I just wonder how many of the lawmakers will read it.

  39. Sybil Landreth

    Love it……from a veteran teacher with National Board certification (renewed) and a masters degree…..and all of that in science to boot. Well well spoken. I hope my grandsons have you both as teachers.

  40. E. A.

    Sadly, many think teachers go into teaching for the money. Considering the education required to teach and the continuing education required to keep your certificate current, teachers are probably the single most underpaid group around. If most people are sick, they just call in and say “I’m sick and won’t be in today”. Teachers must carefully plan activities that will continue the learning process of their students through sickness, death in the family, birth of a child/grandchild, tragedy, etc. We will not even discuss disrespect shown almost daily by students and parents. Nearly all teachers are passionate about their students and learning. Are there bad apples? Certainly. Do these people represent a large percentage of our population? Not even close.
    When I first started teaching, in the early 70’s, we knew the curriculum but were given the freedom to teach. Now we have accountability standards. I am not saying that accountability standards are a bad thing but I do question why they only apply to the teacher. Holding the teacher responsible for increasing test scores would not be unreasonable if the student likewise bore some responsibility for their own learning. For years we have been told that businesses that do not produce perfect products would be run out of business. No one considers that these same businesses simply discard inferior raw materials at the beginning of the manufacturing process. This makes no sense for children so don’t cherry-pick the part that makes your point without looking at the whole picture in the mirror.
    For some convoluted reason, the powers that be believe that ALL children are entitled to a college degree. Keep that in mind when your surgeon finishes near the bottom of his class and needs ten times to pass the licensing test, possibly being put on a different scale. This “forward-thinking” slant will eventually result in a B.S. in Plumbing! Do we need plumbers? Of course. Do they need a college degree? Ludicrous.
    We currently are on track to have colleges or universities that are, in effect, large cities because we want to send all children to college. How much could we save if we chose to educate only those who have earned it? Valedictorian? No. We cannot make someon feel like a lesser person even though they ARE. If class rank really meant something, maybe students would put a little more into THEIR education and parents would put more emphasis on their education rather than being their buddy. My generation has created that monster by making it all about how kids “feel” about themselves rather than what they are. Personal responsibility is practically non- existent among our youth. Gimme, gimme, gimme and gimme it NOW is, unfortunately, the mantra of far too many young people today.
    For this teachers are expected to do more and accept less pay. Makes perfect sense! Why,then, do we stay in education? It is for that one child wh struggles to read and finally completes his first book. It is for the student who struggles with math and finally solves her first word problem. It is for that child who thinks history is boring and then sees that history repeat itself in his town. It is for that student totally intimidated by science who balances her first equation. It is for that child who feels inferior but, with extra help, makes 100 on a test for the first time. It only takes one student to smile and say “I did it” to erase many of the problems of education. Teachers touch a lot of lives. We are proud of what we do. We do it because it is our passion and we KNOW we will never get rich doing it!

  41. Brenda Tab

    Excellent letter, Joel. It seems a teacher’s cry falls on deaf ears anymore & I don’t see it getting any better. Perhaps they prefer to spend their money building jails rather than investing it in schools.

  42. Mary


  43. LS

    I am 100% with you that these lines should be removed from the bill, for it seems quite unfair. I am so grateful to people like you and your wife who choose to teach children.

    Here is where my concern about the overall argument comes in… it is with the “normalcy” with which we treat debt in our culture.

    Our society MUST have a paradigm shift when it comes to debt. It should not be normal. It should be the exception. (A painful lesson I’ve learned over the years.)

    We do students and teachers a disservice by continuing the “teaching” that it is justified, even “normal,” to leave college in a great amount of debt. If we choose, for any reason, to take on any level of education to better ourselves for our career, that is our choice, and how it is paid for is our choice.

    Waiting a few years until we have saved up the money to come out of the experience with no debt, or very little, is a wiser choice. Then our arguments for unfair legislation can be pure, not filled with the huge question and assumption, “I took on this debt, you owe me, now how am I going to pay for it?” Because those are tainted with our choice to take on the debt in the first place which, again, is not anyone else’s responsibility.

    No one owes it to us to pay for our educational choices. Just as no one owes it to us to pay for our choice of car or house, or whatever other choices we make. The motive behind the debt does not remove the debt.

    We are working with our son to plan his college education so that he comes out with no debt. We are preparing him now, teaching a mindset that goes against what this world teaches as “normal.” That means he may have to take 6-8 years to get his degree instead of 4. That he might not be able to go to his first choice school if the cost it too high. And that a Masters or PhD will not come in the time frame that he might originally have liked. But he will reap higher rewards living life debt-free than he ever will from finishing college a few years earlier, or going to a more expensive school.

    Please know, I do agree that these lines in this bill seem unfair, but this article, for me, brought to light a whole other issue, obviously not intended, but just as important.

    • Kevin

      I totally agree with the idea of completing a masters program debt free. I am a teacher that is currently working on a masters program, and I am set to graduate in May of 2014. It had taken me 5 years to complete this program because I have paid for each class one at a time so I could graduate without owing lots of money. However, it is my understanding that I will not be eligible for masters pay under this budget plan. To me, this doesn’t make any sense. It seems like I am being punished for trying to be fiscally responsible.

      • LS

        It stinks when we make the right choice, but end up with results we didn’t intend. You made such a wise choice, you will be better off than many who are up to their eyeballs in debt, no matter the outcome of this bill. I hope, for your sake, and many others’, that they remove this part of the legislation, or that the whole thing just doesn’t go through. Kudos to you for getting out debt free – that’s very admirable!

  44. George

    I understand your expectations, but on the other hand, wouldn’t they still be performing the same job as those teachers with a bachelors degree? If an E-4 in the Army has a masters degree, what does he earn? E-4 pay. I knew a MSG in the National Guard who had a PhD, but he didn’t expect to earn more than his pay grade. Teachers have chosen a profession where pay increases are slight and few.
    On the same token, the NC teachers aren’t paid enough.

    • Mae Teal

      Yes, George but if teachers want to go on up the ladder in education these degrees are required. NC encourages teachers to obtain masters degree and PhD’s. So where is the incentive to teach (which is not an eight hour job and then you go home and relax), take care of their families, work a second job because you don’t make enough on your salary, and go to classes if not for more pay? We can’t all be in administration. Some of us have to teach these people in congress.

    • Working Class Citizen

      I believe that teachers in the state may be moving up in years (the military equivalent to rank) but the legislature has frozen raises to the grades so often that people who move up the ladder in years of experience may not be making what the pay scale said they would when they started. Is that right? Some teacher correct me on that if you know. That is what I understand.

  45. Rebecca

    Maybe if we stopped taking teachers out of the classroom for professional development, paying for them to attend these sessions, and paying for substitutes, there might be a little more $$ left in our budgets to pay these outstanding teachers and those with higher education degrees! More in-house training on workdays would help bring some cost down, don’t you agree?

  46. Mae Teal

    Thank you Joel! Well said I posted on Facebook yesterday when I read this information from NCAE. The only thing I said was “Wow” because the other words I wanted to say to Congress were ugly words. @#$$%%^^&&


      I doubt that they know or understand that some positions in public schools require you to have a Master’s, such as speech therapists and school psychologists. There are others as well. Paying school nurses for their degrees when they do not educate our children seems arbitrary. Please don’t get me wrong, I totally support nurses being paid for their education, but why not teachers?

      • Eileen

        School social workers have to have master’s degrees to be licensed by the state as well. I’ve been trying to make sense of the exception for nurses–perhaps it’s an issue of there being a shortage? In any case, it’s all quite preposterous.

  47. Pam

    Excellent letter!

  48. Wen

    The majority of the legislature does not care. These decisions probably do not affect their children. How many of their children attend public schools? Of those public schools how many are those located in poverty stricken areas, where kids can’t even think about school until they can get something to eat first? Many of us attended graduate schools to be better prepared to meet the needs of ALL of our students. We paid tuition, studied, bought textbooks at outrageous prices, and at times neglected our own families in order to be better educated.

  49. Wayne

    As a retired public school teacher and administrator, I could not agree with Joel’s comments more. Why should NC fall backwards in the education field? I thought the objective was to make the state of NC the very best it can be. School personnel (teachers and administrators) go back to school to help improve the educational system; not to hurt it. Why can’t our NC Congress members understand this? Wayne

  50. Randy F.

    Way to go this is exactly why I left teaching in NC.They want to pay you peanuts and expect miracles. Then if you have a desparate life changing situation say like emergency open heart surgery in the middle of the school year and need to be on extended leave you have to pay for the substitute. I would have had to pay more than a month’s salary to pay for my substitute that’s CraZy.

  51. A tired teacher

    I taught 8.5 years and was hired under no contract, no protection of employment or guarantee of another year. I was hired as a right to work employee. That means I can leave or be removed from a position as needed. The sad part is that it took me the five years of no pay increase, and a bankruptcy, to realize that in order for my family to survive I needed to find employment outside teaching. I loved teaching, but as soon as money become part of the picture I hated it. I hated the NCGA. I loathed the idea of teacher review or incentive pay. All of that is and was to manipulate educators. Why? Revenge. The GA openly has a bias view of educators. Most teachers are seen as liberal or Democrat and in NC right now that is heresy.
    Teachers need to realize that the attacks are personal. They have not gone quietly into the good night as expected, which means retribution. Until the right wing guard is toppled in NC our education system will continue to privatize. The Governor’s good buddy and education advisor needs his kick backs. Private schools will resegregate our schools which is what they want.

  52. charlotte cox

    My husband taught for 30 years in public schools and every year there was more work put upon the teachers due to all of the state regulations ,federal regulations, city regulations ,and board of education regulations. that is on top of classes being taught, class preprations, grades, dealing with students and also parents. Many years there were no raises. So going back to school and furthering your education were the only way to increase your salary.
    Anyone who teaches is truly a dedicated and caring person.

  53. asil

    What a great letter. I truly think our “leaders” have lost their ever loving minds and have no concept of what educators really do.

  54. Kendell

    Joel –
    Awesome post. I’m proud of my former youth!
    Sadly, there are plenty in Raleigh that I believe have little appreciation for public education. The ridiculous Williams opinion piece quoted in these comments is typical of the disdain that exists for public education and educators. This is not just a “liberal” issue. My Republican friends in education and on school boards find the General Assembly has turned deaf ears to them as well.

    • M

      If you want to serve in a public role understand its not lucrative. Feel free to join the private sector. Try not to forget why you became an educator , was it always for the money?????

  55. S Murray

    Good Luck N Carolinians…. This is how it all started in Michigan and now our public system is almost completely broken down. (as was the corporate plan, all along).

    First, a bachelor’s degree for teaching is 5 years, not 4 years. Then, a teacher can only teach in their highly qualified areas. And, they must maintain a yearly certification or not teach.(because a degree isn’t good enough).

    Then, there was the attack on the districts.. financially… taking away their foundation allowance increases, and for the last 10 years, have taken monies away from the districts’ base line funding.
    (In my district, we lost $25 MILLION dollars over these 10 years, in a district that only receives a $40 million annual budget)

    Then, Lansing just decided to deplete the School Aid Fund altogether and use it for balancing their general budget. ( so, who was financially negligent? It must be nice to balance the books by taking someone else’s money to do it… how easy would that be? and, on the backs of the students, for shame..) With the funding taken away, the districts that are failing to meet budgets are at risk for an emergency manager take-over.

    My district has had to eliminate bussing, and with it our drivers. (students in my district now have to walk up to 4.5 miles EACH way to school), we lost our parapros, we closed our pool down and sold the equipment, we outsourced our maintenance, custodial and ground keeping jobs to non-union, non-retirement and nominal paying companies. We shut down our tennis courts. Our curtains on the high school stage were hanging by threads, literally. Our teachers took a %5 pay concession and voluntarily contributed to their own health insurance (before the state forced them to), Our administrators took %6 pay concession, many of our educators retired/rehired to save us retirement and health costs, I took %12 pay reduction on school board. Still, we are deficit and are told to ‘learn how to budget our money’. (as if we were just throwing it out the window). We did just fine before they started taking it away from us, all across the state.

    Then, there is the common core. No additional funding for the additional expenses it brings. Without assistance with paras, teachers and programs to comply, we will then not be able to meet AYP.

    It is at that point, that the government feels ‘free’ to take over our schools and either send in an emergency manager (who with only 2 days training is able to dissolve the school board, the district, close schools and lay off teachers without any recourse by the citizens of the district) OR… send an EAA…. Education Achievement Authority…. This is the Lansing answer to solving the problem of failing schools. (most of which failed due to lack of funding, lack of parapros and lack of programs, etc)…..

    So, it is an agenda of PUBLIC school take-over … (because they will have all ‘FAILED’, eventually, and corporate and employer, and charter schools will succeed.)

    Being that public schools teach to ALL students, despite of familial situation, financial situation, or disabilities, they incur all types of social services expenses that are at best, nominally funded. What will all these corporate, employer and charter schools do with the students in these situations because they now are allowed to have selective enrollment? Just how successful will they be, then?

    Oh, and FYI,, data shows that the public schools are as /or more successful than these ‘alternative’ schools are. These alternative schools do not have the data to back up their claims to success nor existence.

    So, GO PUBLIC EDUCATORS!!!!! You Rock…. but in NC, watch your back, because in Michigan, we all have a knife in ours.

  56. Janice Wetzel

    North Carolina has really embarrassed itself. Time to deep six such a ridiculous bill and regain your dignity. Joe has the right idea.

  57. Jill MacNiven

    I am outraged. Is this just for NC or all over the US? I am a special education teacher Rank I (Master’s plus 30 hours) in State of Kentucky. Just makes me curious how teacher’s salaries may be affected all over. Thanks. Ms. Jill MacNiven

  58. Becky Secrest

    Well said. But let me add this: at the same time you’re trying to take away additional pay for additional education from teachers with teacher training, you want to let people without any teaching degree or experience teach in charter schools, and you want to let charter schools with those unqualified “teachers” take money away from our public schools. Who are you people in the legislature, and what is wrong with this picture?

  59. Becky Secrest

    Who in their right mind would want to become a teacher?

    • Becky Secrest

      I know there are people to whom teaching is a calling. I was one of those people. But now I am retired, and I can’t imagine why anyone would want to teach now. When I was a child, I thought the sun rose and set in all my teachers. I had so much respect for them; I was in awe of them. When I retired, I was so disrespected–by the new young teachers and by administration who thought the sun rose and set in the young new teachers.

  60. Bobby Padgett

    Excellent article. I am in the same boat as this teacher and his wife. 4 credits short of a masters with loans due and now facing the prospect of no supplement should I finish the degree,

    With a degree in chemistry, I could be making more in industry, but I like the fact that my schedule matches my son’s. I have 3 more years until he finishes school and then I have to pay for college on a salary that will have been frozen for nearly a decade (while college expenses have risen thanks to cuts there too) without a master’s bonus. Screw that, I will most likely go back to industry and you can find some TFA willing do my job for $30K before they go to Wall St.

  61. Linda Gunter

    Great letter! Are you a member of NCAE? Where do you live? Call us at 919-832-3000 ext. 210 and ask for me.

  62. Suzanne

    Excellent letter. There are so many problems in the General Assembly that there isn’t enough bandwidth in the world to address them all. However, the real problem that has been very evident in the past few years is that experience is no longer valued. A first year teacher’s effectiveness is certainly equal to those of us who have 7, 10, 15 years in the classroom, right? A common misconception is that the longer we teach, the lazier and more complacent we get; we need to get rid of old teachers because they’re just counting their days until they can retire (haha, have you SEEN the retirement package?) . University education programs are creating entitled know-it-alls who scoff at mentoring and advice from “old timers.” Obviously the General Assembly agrees. In what other occupation are employees discouraged from furthering their education and experience? I feel extremely lucky that I have a job and it’s one that I love, but enough is enough, We can no longer stand to be devalued, beaten down and treated like pariahs. General Assembly really needs to pick on someone else.

  63. M

    If you want to serve in a public role understand its not lucrative. Feel free to join the private sector. Try not to forget why you became an educator , was it always for the money?????

  64. J

    I am also a former teacher – Excellent letter!

  65. Jamie Halye

    Nicely said. I am in the same boat working on my masters.

  66. Jamie Halye

    Well we have to earn a living just like everybody else..

  67. R Chase

    The slam at Home Schooling is an unfortunate but typical view of the NEA and its rabid members. There are many excellent public school teachers who understand the motivations for parents to home school and are supportive of them. Then there are those like Roth who apparently fails on both counts.

  68. joanne alvare

    way to go!! Someone had to say it….we no longer want teachers to better themselves? Here in NJ they are trying to find a way to test kids and whatever the results take it out on the teacher….one thing they forgot is that some kids don’t eat breakfast or sleep in their own bed every night there is no way to measure these children against children who have this every day and night so how can tests reflect achievement or evaluate a teacher? Standardized tests don’t work to gauge teachers already spend half their year teaching for the test…wouldn’t you if you were going to be graded on it?

  69. stephen

    Wait, teachers get an automatic raise for taking some classes online? what a racket. This bill seems to be a plan to connect government pay structure with the private world, where increased education does not automatically provide increased income.

  70. Mrs.B in Greenville

    I spent a year working in NC public schools 10 years ago, moved back to WV and dreamed of getting back to NC and teaching the entire time I was in WV. Two babies and a B.A. in SPED later, I finally made it back. Now I’m working on my M.A. in Elem. Math Ed (what I thought was my weakest area), looking for a teaching job, and wondering why I’m doing it. Graduate school is not easy, and I thought I that by sacrificing time with my family now I would be rewarded with a salary that would at least let me pay back the loans I took out to become a better educator. It hurts to see teachers treated with such little regard, and hurts even more to know that the students (two of which are my own children!) are treated as burdens of society instead of the next great generation of Americans. Shame on the NCGA.

  71. John Campbell

    You’re comparing a teacher to a surgeon? A master’s degree for a third grade teacher is superfluous, sounds like the already generous pay received by teachers has made your head swell. If youre wife is getting a masters degree in order to increase her salary potential, perhaps it would be better served focusing on something in a private sector(something with value).

  72. John Campbell

    Well said. If one is really looking to increase the earning potential of their family then perhaps they should have the foresight to continue their education in something with value. The marginal increase in value his wife would deliver to third graders, after receiving her masters degree, is not worth much to anyone.

  73. John Campbell

    I believe their opinion would be that a third grade teacher receiving a master’s degree doesn’t help improve the education system. Why cant teachers understand that furthering their own education doesn’t exactly allow them to teach cursive and simple math to third graders with any more skill?

    • abirdonawire


      Thanks for all the comments!

      It’s possible we simply see things differently – my wife and I think that working for the public and with students *is* of value. That’s why I’m addressing my open letters to public officials.

      And, perhaps I was unclear in the column; when my wife decided to enroll in graduate school (She attends classes at night, after working her school day. She’s a *trooper*), the state offered a higher salary for a master’s, indicating that state lawmakers once found a Master’s in Education of value, too.

      In regards to “teach[ing] cursive and simple math to third graders,” I’d initially state that students in third grade classes are now learning algebra.

      I’d follow-up by saying,

      I taught 11th grade English. My wife, as you clearly know and have referenced, teaches third grade. I promise you, her job is harder.

      There are plenty of people who teach subjects other than third grade within the public school system who will also not be paid on a master’s scale as the plan stands, not to mention *any* teacher with a master’s degree having higher qualifications to work with students in their developmental years.

      Skills learned and cultivated at eight and nine years old matter just as much, if not more, than those tightened and sharpened as high school juniors and seniors.

      I hope this helped. Feel free to keep commenting!


  74. Lori Prescott

    As a wife of a 27 year teacher who just received his Masters In Administration, I am praying that our state will honor the extra pay for a Masters Degree and support our teachers!!! Our children deserve the very best instead of being stripped of everything in our schools. It’s sad when our teachers who have to keep changing the way they teach, have more work added to their loads and extra stress then get hit with lower salaries and benefits stripped away! Praying our congress will stop with all the cuts and VALUE our educators!!

  75. Pete

    You can’t pay teachers less and then install a smartboard in every classroom, buy new overpriced laptops (Mac), a new ipad for every teacher and student at the alternative school, and buy document cameras and data projectors for every classroom. Whoever is allocating all this money for technology is saying that teachers are obsolete. If a kid wants to use the internet to find information, he first needs to learn to read. The over-emphasis on technology is why teachers are being paid less. The money is there.

  76. Joanne

    I.LOVE. THIS. GUY!!!

    • Joanne

      And to whomever John Campbell is… You need to get your head out of your rear end and just try supporting a family on the “generous” salary a first year teacher makes and then has it frozen for the past five years at that same level while the cost of living goes up! Spend a week in our classrooms where some of us do NOT have the technology or resources that all of our kids need to learn. find out just what the standards we are expected t meet on a daily basis are, before you shoot your mouth off about teaching cursive in third grade etc.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You do NOT have any idea what you’re talking about unless you are in the trenches with us s a teacher.

  77. Christy

    Unless you have worked in a school…especially one with a high percentage of kids on free and reduced lunch…then you can not speak to what it’s like or tell us to “quit our whining”. People “out there” don’t get it. I’m a school counselor and you could not pay me enough to be a teacher! They are some of the hardest working, underpaid, and unappreciated people in the world. No wonder most teachers today have either been teaching for a long time, or are new to the field. The new ones get out of the classroom after they realize how bad it is, and the old ones are literally counting the hours until they can retire.

    When you work a job where your salary continuously gets cut, but you are asked to do more and more work, you find yourself working something like 60 to 70+ hours/week, and you are told that if the test scores of those you supervise do not increase, then your job will be on the line, then we can talk. And did I mention that your “employees” come from homes were the work is not valued, stay up all hours of the night and sleep on the job, cuss you out or even get violent with you, refuse to do what you ask, refuse to listen to you, etc….but you are not allowed to fire them.

    Yeah…legislators should be required to step into the schools of an educator before they write these laws.

  78. tigerjoe

    The real question is whether the masters or doctorate translates into a higher quality of instruction:

    “Although teachers with master’s degrees generally earn additional salary or stipends — the so-called “master’s bump” — they are no more effective, on average, than their counterparts without master’s degrees. The more nuanced evidence suggests that master’s degrees in math and science do confer an instructional advantage on teachers of those subjects, yet approximately 90 percent of the master’s degrees held by teachers come from education programs that tend to be unrelated to or unconcerned with instructional efficacy.”

    (from: )

    If the students do benefit, why should the state offer a financial incentive for teachers to pursue graduate education?

    Directly to the author’s statement: “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.”

    I would respond that that’s not an apples to apples comparison. A proper apples to apples comparison would be comparing, say, a 40 year old teacher with 18 years experience and a bachelor’s degree to a similar 40 year old teacher with 18 years experience and a masters degree. The research states that, on average, performance between the two teachers is the same. In a pay for performance (which I know teachers union generally refuse to accept), shouldn’t they be paid the same?

    • tigerjoe

      *if the students do NOT benefit”…

    • NCTeacher

      I agree that getting a degree will not make you a better teacher, if you do not want to be a better teacher. But, I do. I enrolled in this specific program because of linked evidence to increased fluency and reading growth.
      I am learning innovative and rigorous ways to teach my students and can’t wait to complete my courses and to feel proud of that fact. This degree did cost 12,000 and I was excited and willing to pay that. $126 extra dollars a moth in salary seems like a fair compensation for that, and that’s all I want. Future inspired teachers should have this same chance!

  79. Bob

    Oh, and, by the way, that doctor just out of training is a quarter of a million dollars in debt (accumulated school loans from undergrad and med school) and is now, after a dozen years training (college, med school, residency) earning a FRACTION of the salary of the hospital administrators with an undergraduate degree and maybe a masters in health administration or whatever. There is certainly little financial incentive for anyone to pursue the level of education/training required to become a doctor these days, especially with what is coming down the pike with new health care legislation.

  80. ruth

    It appears that the legislature will soon be merely requiring a high school diploma to educate the states most valuable resource and indeed it’s future – our children. Boo to the legislature. For the people, by the people – what?

  81. Lisa

    Please keep in mind this comes on the heels of a SEVEN year pay freeze for our states teachers. As NC population continues to boom, our amazing school systems appear in glossy handouts from realtors to employers. Let’s not loose sight that the same teachers who took an oath to serve children did not take a vow of poverty. Law makers, what was your salary in 2006, when gas was $2.90 and a loaf of bread was $1.22? Our’s hasn’t changed!

  82. Robin Griffin

    First Congrats on your about to be “Baby Girl”!! It is refreshing to read an article, calling those who represent us onto the Carpet, as is said. I believe this is how our Govt. runs We the People any more. I whole heartily agree with You & all other Teachers. I value Teachers along with others paid less, such as Firepeople, Police Officers, EMT Units & so on. I am so glad I read this. Good Luck with the birth of your little girl. Hang in there for your Wife, :b

  83. Nell

    Here, here!!

  84. michelle

    I bet they aren’t taking away the higher salaries for all of the master’s degree level super intendants, and other administrative people. Its only a boon for those at the top. And with this bill, they just said “Too Bad for All You Little People!!!” We should all move to Texas!!

  85. Mike Farrier

    From a current teacher in an urban public school. VERY WELL SAID SIR!!!

  86. Adam

    You take on debt to go to school so the taxpayers owe you a higher salary. Totally makes sense.

  87. herschelsusan

    The sad thing is that one of our state senator’s wives was an elementary school teacher! He really should have more empathy!

  88. Bl

    Yes…well said. Masters degrees should be untouchable related to pay. It I a true effort and learning. If you have to touch anything( which you shouldn’t) it should be national boards. That supplement is not valid compared to masters. Bonus yes. Supplement no.

  89. Priscilla

    NC is a “right to work” state. That might be something teachers, nurses, laborers, housekeepers & other workers want to think about addressing. If you had union collective bargaining agreements, no one could sneak something like this into the pay structure.

    • NCTeacher

      They could, if they disbarred the union. It happened to us in WI and now these budget cuts and devaluing of public education are all deja vu!

  90. Dan Suse

    Time the legislature was fired and all of their benefits taken away so they can work for free too…and I am a teacher

  91. Gann Herman

    keep speaking truth to power and tell it like it is! THANK YOU to you and your wife for being teachers for our children.

  92. Jean

    –I see NO mention by Joel of Public School v.s. Home Schooling–Maybe some of the negative replies need to reread what Joel EXACTLY said — Our newly elected Gov. has even made the statement that N.C. needs more highly educated PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS, ( i.e. get your Masters degree). So, it does seems a solution for the future of a truly innovative, world class Public School system is for the citizens of this state to make more thoughtful , wiser decisions the next time they have the opportunity to hire (ELECT) our lawmakers –we are pretty much screwed for the next two years at least.

  93. rgt7670

    The double jeopardy of removing the increased pay for those who have pursued a professional graduate degree is the proposal of the NC Senate in their proposed budget to end NC Teaching Fellows that has helped recruit high school students into undergraduate teaching programs, thereby reducing the number of eager, young, and educated teachers with Bachelor’s Degrees.


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  95. George

    I understand there may not be hard scientific evidence that a Master’s improves, say, student test scores. However, an advanced degree is one of the few options a teacher has to get even a medium-level salary bump. They aren’t even getting cost of living increases right now. Haven’t for years.

    A typical promotion in the corporate world includes a 10% raise, and right now the only options I know of for that kind of raise for a teacher are advanced degrees and national board certification.

    My wife worked very hard to attain both, and I can attest that it has made her a better teacher. She learned new methods and new information, got to discuss with other teachers, and generally became more well-rounded.

    She didn’t do it for the money – it would take years for that 10% bump to pay off the cost of the degree anyway. She did it to improve herself as a teacher, and I don’t think she’s in the minority there.

    Without the economic incentive, how likely is it that a teacher can now afford an advanced degree? If he or she wants to improve, that will now be much more difficult. I’m actually surprised the university system isn’t angry about this. They’re going to lose applicants and current students who now won’t be able to pay for the degrees they want or are partially done with.

  96. Barry Schorr

    Would be fine if those clowns in Raleigh knew how to read….

  97. j j joyner

    At the rate the legislaters are moving , N C education system will soon reach bottom. Why would any thinking person want to dismantle our educational system. When we lose our public school system we will finally become a third world country or at least State. This is REAL and very scary!!

  98. Karen

    The plan is to destroy public education. A less educated public is easier to control, therefore it is easier to pay them less.

    What I find really sad is that there are public school teachers who voted for these “legislators” who are bound and determined to make public education a privilege rather than a right.

  99. Julia Hendricks

    Well said. Honestly, most teachers in the state of NC obtain advanced degrees and National Boards not only to be better teachers, but also to earn a decent living. If teachers in NC were paid competitively, many wouldn’t have to work 2 jobs, go to grad school, etc. Teachers in this state deserve better pay. In 1996 when I moved here with my husband (both of us in education) a popular bumper sticker was, “NC #48 in teacher pay, #1 in pigs/hogs.”

  100. Terry Lee

    Well written. Amen!
    We teachers that earned our master’s degree worked just as hard as teachers that are National Board Certified. Not to be rude or disrespectful to anyone that is National Board Certified.

  101. Pamela Rose

    Thank you for your response. It was eloquent and to the point. As a first grade teacher I applaud you!

  102. Jr

    Great read. I work for public education as does my wife. NC was looking very promising when we moved here during the Easley reign of 2004. The last two assemblies and governors have ruined it. I’m ready to go back north. The declining education support will trickle its way into further advancing the downfall of North Carolina’s dissolving society. This state is such a mess and it stinks in layers.

  103. Teachermother

    Way to go! You said so well what so many of us are thinking! Also, what is with the freeze on teacher salary increases when we rank 51 out of 51 states in salary increases over the years? Meaning, teachers, we are LAST priority yet expected to carry out responsibilities of first priority i.e. educating the population of this state we call home, NC.

  104. Eagle2758 (@eagle2758)

    Maybe NC cannot afford the teacher’s union anymore,eh. Think about that!


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