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A Teacher’s Thoughts on the Assembly’s Budget

A Teacher’s Thoughts on the Assembly’s Budget

I was packing my lunch for work (OK, OK – a paid internship) when my wife, seated in the living room, read aloud what the General Assembly’s almost-final budget bill does not include.

I stood in the kitchen.

“Master’s pay, merit pay, tenure, and no raises.”

She then said, “Basically, if you do a good job, you get to teach another year.”

* * *

It’s a strange thing, as a middle-class, white American, to feel my way of life is being attacked by a power that refuses to understand the heart of me. My initial internal reaction was embarrassment – as if I should be ashamed to have been a teacher, ashamed to be married to a teacher, and ashamed of loving teaching.

But then, as I secured the top of my Tupperware (leftover chicken pot pie, if we’re wondering), I came to my senses in a poorly lit kitchen.

The embarrassment is not mine to have, nor my wife’s, nor that of teachers in this state.

I am not embarrassed to think molding students for greatness is a calling.

I am not embarrassed that I always ended up slightly giddy when discussing color and symbolism in The Great Gatsby.

I am not ashamed to know that teachers are not and never will be parts of a machine.

* * *

I almost found and find myself at a point of muttering, “It doesn’t even matter anymore,” out of defeat or emotional exhaustion.

But that, I think, is what the General Assembly hopes all teachers will mutter to themselves.

Yes, of course these measures will help ease the financial strain on the state budget, but there is a difference between fiscal responsibility and an assault on public schools. If the currently-successful public schools eventually do not function, which I believe is the only reason the General Assembly has proposed changes this drastic, our state will suffer long-term.

Master’s pay was an incentive for teachers to become better educated. Tenure (I do not pretend to think tenure is a system without flaws) allows job security for veteran and experienced teachers. Raises help teachers eat and live in townhouses with one less roommate.

* * *

One of my most consistent messages to my students was that of hope – I (maybe too) often wrote or said, “There is always hope.” I believe it now just as firmly as I did then.

I hope that our teachers make noise, and I hope it happens inside and outside the classrooms. I hope they march, I hope they dance, I hope they vote. Inside the classroom, I hope they teach with ferocity. I hope they are as insulted as I am and prove that they will not be broken,

That their resolve outweighs that of a group of agenda-driven men (I’m an agenda driven man, thank you) in downtown Raleigh.

And, if this budget comes to pass, let it be known that teaching will become an even higher calling in this state. One of the noblest.

 * * *


Teach on.

Members of the General Assembly,

Do what you will and try not to be so upset when the public schools of North Carolina don’t fall into the ocean.



  1. NClibn

    Thank you!

  2. Will

    As a 40 year veteran of this system, I am heartened to see someone with as much passion for teaching as I have fought to maintain. Please stay the course the children of our state deserve you and many more like you. THANK YOU

  3. Betsy Smith

    WELL SAID!!!!!!!!!

  4. R. Starling

    We are voting! Last time, we voted for a former teacher in hopes that she would improve the conditions for for education. One of the first acts of her administration was to take monet from our paychecks to balance the budget! When that didn’t work, we voted for someone who promised to make it better. What is a citizen to do?

    • Alicia

      It’s not so much the governor because really the members of the general assembly make the decisions. Our last governor did try to make changes but the assembly refused to pass them. Her hands were tied. It’s them we need to get rid of…

  5. Barbara Sykes

    Thank you. I am a retired teacher and I can not believe what has happened. This is a dark time for students and educators. Monday we need to be in Raleigh marching with NCAE.

  6. Donna

    AMEN, AMEN thank you – Very well put.

  7. unsympathetic

    I value the wonderful, professional teachers we have, and definitely think that cuts should be made elsewhere first, BUT keep in mind that I as a small business owner pay my own insurance (as well as my employees’) and retirement plan (when/if I can afford one), make less per hour than teachers (yes, we also work many more hours than the sign on the door says) haven’t had a pay raise in years either, thanks to the poor economy, and on and on it goes. Do I feel unappreciated or de-valued? And what other profession enjoys the benefits of tenure, anyway? Personally, I wish the government would step in and bail me out when I have a “down” business year like they do for the farmers when their crops are ruined. I would honestly be all for paying higher wages to keep good teachers here in NC, but that’s really not the problem, anyway. The education SYSTEM has way too much money as it is — it’s just being spent on administration and testing, not teaching. And that won’t change even if we put more money into the budget. They need to get rid of Common Core, most of the testing, all of these IEPs and other ridiculous pampering of our kids. We each chose the profession we’re in for one reason or other, so let me say thank you for your continued hope and passion for passing that along to our students, and please keep on keeping on like everyone else paying taxes. Like most things in life, there are others who have it much worse….

    • Fedup!

      Do you even know what the Common Core is? Why would we get rid of a curriculum that demands our students develop literacy skills across the content areas? A curriculum that requires teachers to develop higher level thinking skills by teaching students to be able to explain HOW to work through a math problem rather than to just do it by rote memorization. The time is upon us that, in order for our students to rise to the challenge of competing in what is more than ever becoming a global marketplace where borders are irrelevant, we must teach these skills. Otherwise, not only will your IT phone support person speak with an accent in the future, everyone who you ask for help will. Do you have children? Do you even care? If this budget goes into effect, your state’s educational system is DONE. Everyone who can will retire and not a soul with any sense will enter the profession. In four years there will be no teachers. Where will they come from? Virginia? No, not going to take a pay cut to come here and teach. South Carolina, Tennessee? They wont either. Oh, that’s right. By then, we’ll be at the bottom of the pay scale. NO ONE will come here to teach. Where will that leave the schools?

    • Anonymous Man

      This is a well-reasoned and balanced response to the proposed cuts to eduction, but I find myself getting hung up on your likening of farm aid to private business. Agriculture needs subsidies simply because food is a staple we cannot live without and bad crop years would derail the country economically without intervention. You didn’t state what your business is, but unless it’s a service or product as vital as crops, the two aren’t comparable. Education, on the other hand, is something we require all of our children to go through and therefore is vital. A basic principle of manufacturing is that the more time and resources are devoted to manufacturing a product, the higher the quality will be. The costs will be increased, but the alternative is to pump out acceptable-quality products quickly at low price, which is what I liken the recent legislation on the education budget to be.

      Otherwise, I do believe that education administration is costing much more than it should and most standardized testing is useless. Thanks for the debate and good luck with your business.

  8. Letitia Webb

    Well said!!

  9. Brenda Shirley

    As a 68 year old retired teacher with a daughter who has tenure and has passed the “boards” ( a national certification), I am not surprised at all.. They have played games with salaries and pension funds since I began teaching in 1967. Public education AND mental health always come last. Let us not let power and greed wreck our public education system.

  10. Terry Moore

    I also thank you!!

  11. Dalma

    All in all, very sad! EDUCATION=SMARTER VOTES!! 25 years of teaching and watching from abroad might give me a different point of view. Do they want higher level thinking and smarter citizens that stand up for their rights? Just food for thought. What is the goal? Finances? or maybe some long-term hidden agenda? But what I have learned, by observing a 14 year on-going totalitarian revolution in my country….. a squeaky wheel and a big group of people does stop a movement, at least buying you some time, if not a real change. And as a recent example in the US Zimmerman and Trayvon case. Even the President made an appearance after a big number of citizens protested! But alas, in my country we`ve lost that right and many others, so don`t wait to let your voices be heard! Think of Horton and the Who, and it´s not only your state, it´s happening in your entire country!!!!

  12. jeanne

    I too am a teacher. I teach kindergarten! I LOVE my job. I love seeing eyes light up with understanding and smiles widen with each success. I will teach on in spite of the disrespect being shown by those who should be our greatest supporters. I will teach on because these children are the future of our state and our nation. I will teach on because the people making these decisions don’t know what I do everyday. They don’t see the promise I see when I look into the eyes of a child. So, bring it on.

  13. Cara Jill de Ligt

    You speak so eloquently. Thank you!

  14. Abby Robbins

    As a teacher I could not have said it better! Teachers need to not give up, but push on and fight…not just for themselves, but for their students and future generations.

  15. MathTeacherNoMore

    I left the teaching profession because it was difficult to afford to pay for my groceries each month. My heart goes out to those that are still in the profession. May you prevail and don’t forget the best rewards in teaching are from the students. Unfortunately it is not being able to afford a decent living or having enough money to pay for your groceries each month.

  16. Ellen

    I am at the intern stage of a Master’s of Instructional Technology. I understand how you are feeling about this.

  17. Wendy Haag

    We support you in WI. Our Governor and state legislature has been attacking public education here boldly for that past three years. I pray that the students we have had over the years will rise up as adults and put an end to these attacks before education has deteriorated so badly that only the top 10% of the population who can afford private schooling get anything resembling an education.

  18. F. D.

    State to state…no raises, no professional respect, fewer and fewer entering into the field. The private prep school students are the ones getting an education. The rest are being encouraged by the teachers, but the continual creation of an underclass continues.

  19. Jeff

    The wife’s comment of, “Basically, if you do a good job, you get to teach another year.” is how the rest of the world works. I commend those who do teach, but in many cases, there are many who do not teach, but do what they can do to get by. I have seen the people who posted this chart showing that it takes a teacher 19 years to get what the average McDonald’s manager makes. Look at the hours that McDonald’;s managers work and ask them how they like their summers off. Also, look at how much of their pay is bonuses. If they do not do the job, they don’t get the bonuses and probably lose their job. I do wish you could make more money, but you are a State employee and if the State does not have the money, they can’t pay it. Teachers are underpaid, but you know that going into the profession. Please keep teaching and know that you are appreciated, but sympathy is not something I think you need.


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