Local teachers and their supporters joined forces Wednesday at the county’s courthouse as part of a statewide silent protest against facets of North Carolina’s public education policy.
According to Lincoln County chapter president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, Dana Avery, chapters of the NCAE throughout the state’s 100 counties held a silent vigil at their county’s courthouse from 12:15-12:45 p.m.
“All our NCAE officers across the whole state of North Carolina have partnered with North Carolina PTA members,” she said. “And they selected this day to be a day where we all — teachers, parents, students…come together to show the dissatisfaction we are feeling with the lack of support we are getting from our legislators.”
According to the North Carolina Association of Educators website, since its formation in 1970, the organization’s vision has been “to be the voice of educators in North Carolina that unites, organizes and empowers members to be advocates for education professionals, public education and children.”
“NCAE has a very strong voice for teachers, for students and for parents — everybody,” Avery said. “And we’re just coming together because we’re still not happy.”
Under this year’s approved budget, North Carolina’s previous 37-step schedule for teacher salaries has been condensed into a six-step process, with pay increases for teachers occurring every five years, as opposed to annually.
A North Carolina teacher with a bachelor’s degree will receive $33,000 annually during their first four years as a teacher, according to the new pay scale. During years five to nine, teachers will receive a base pay of $36,500. In years 10-14, a teacher’s salary would increase to $40,000, with a $3,500 raise in salary during years 15-19 and a $3,000 raise in years 20-24. After 25 years of teaching, instructors should expect to receive $50,000.
“Well, the seven-percent raise (legislators have touted) is not equitable across the board,” NCAE chapter vice-president Kellie Goins said. “It does not average out to be a seven-percent raise for all teachers. It varies from 0.29 percent to 18.5 percent. And that’s where some things are not as clear as they need to be. As a veteran teacher, this is disheartening. We are invested in this profession. There is a reason why we got into this. It wasn’t for the money. We just want teachers to get what they were promised years ago.”
“And I think (legislators) try to make it about the teachers…‘Hey, we gave you a salary, so please be quiet,’ and it’s not about that,” Avery added. “I know teachers who would have said, ‘Keep your salary; we want money for our students and for our school system. We want our schools to have computers and our schools to have iPads. That’s what we need. And then with the local funding, we know they’re already not being given enough in our local budget, and now it’s going to go back to (Superintendent) Dr. (Sherry) Hoyle to decide what cuts we’re going to make.”
Retired principal Diand Canipe was among those who came out to show support for the county’s educators.
Having worked for 27 years as a teacher and administrator in Lincoln County, Canipe has a personal stake in public education.
“I’ve always been a huge supporter of teachers and public education,” she said. “I think the perception of the public is that there was a seven-percent increase across the board given to all teachers, and that’s not true. Longevity, which is something that teachers receive after 10 years of service, that’s going away and it’s not a good thing.”
Canipe said that while the new pay scale will benefit younger teachers, veteran teachers are being neglected.
“While the pay scale is helping our younger teachers, our invested teachers, our veterans who are helping the young teachers, are the ones being overlooked,” she said.
Governor Pat McCrory recently responded to critiques from the NCAE in a press statement.
“I need to also let all state employees, and yes, our great teachers, know this — as governor, I also have to be sensitive to the private sector,” he said. “The private sector employs many in manufacturing and travel and tourism and agriculture and professions, including journalism, who are not getting these types of pay raises, who do not have pensions, who do not have the benefits we have and have never heard of the term ‘longevity pay,’ which is still in place in the state of North Carolina.”
McCrory added that his goal throughout his term has been to improve the state’s economy “across the board,” and he feels that his administration has made “tremendous progress.”
For more information about the North Carolina Association of Educators, please visit www.ncae.org.