THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
The North Carolina Schools Superintendent June Atkinson has expressed concerns to North Carolina lawmakers about the state’s low teachers’ salaries. North Carolina ranks 46th in the nation for teachers’ pay.
Atkinson proposed exempting public school teachers from personal state income taxes as an incentive, but lawmakers did not approve of the proposal.
“Let’s keep our competent teachers in North Carolina classrooms. Let’s position North Carolina to be a more attractive state for new teachers,” Atkinson said in a news release. The starting pay for teachers with only a bachelor’s degree in North Carolina is $30,800 and teachers receive their first pay raise after five years on the job, when they begin earning $31,220.
In the wake of Atkinson’s proposal, local educators shared their thoughts on teachers’ salaries and incentives.
Ann Kent, chair of the Edgecombe County Board of Education, disagrees with Atkinson’s proposal to exempt public school teachers from state income taxes.
“We’ve got to have more people paying in for things to improve. We’ve got to figure out how to generate more money in our state,” Kent said. She would like to see other types of incentives for teachers.
“I would by very happy as a state employee and a teacher if the state would offer me five additional days of paid vacation that I didn’t have to take this year – that you could use toward a retirement in the future or that you could use on a trip that you might want to take,” Kent said.
Sandra Langley, basketball coach and health/ physical education teacher at SouthWest Edgecombe High School, believes raising teachers’ salaries is the key to attracting new teachers to North Carolina, and to the profession.
“You want your bright people teaching your children,” the 38-year educator said. “A lot of people that graduate won’t go into teaching because of the salaries…They have got to get these salaries up.”
Langley believes lawmakers should find areas in education to make cuts, beginning with testing, which she believes has become excessive, so that teachers’ salaries could be increased.
“They’re got to get some scale back in where you’re guaranteed to get a (pay) increase every year,” Langley said. “These young teachers are already struggling to make ends meet, because the cost of living is going up.”
Langley also favors paying teachers to pursue a master’s degree, and a higher education in general. Langley has a master’s degree in physical education and an advanced degree in administration and supervision.
“You’ve got to be rewarded for wanting to get better. The pay is the bottom line; that’s the incentive,” Langley said.
Leshaun Jenkins, history teacher and soccer coach at Tarboro High School, said that in order to attract great teachers, North Carolina must offer teachers a salary that’s high enough to support a family and be competitive with other states.
“If our salaries are 46th in the country, then clearly that’s not good. That’s to insinuate that our educational system is that bad, but it’s not,” he said. While every parent wants a high-quality education for his/ her child, “great learning” can’t take place without “great teachers,” he said. “If you can’t reward them by salary, reward them by incentives…anything that might make a teacher want to stay in North Carolina,” Jenkins said. He would like to see teachers get paid to pursue a master’s degree and receive extra compensation based on merit.
“Your best teachers should be paid more,” he said.
Jeff Craddock, football coach at Tarboro High School, said his paycheck is not his primary motivating factor, but rather helping students pursue their dreams.
“I knew when I came to Edgecombe County 18 years ago that North Carolina and Edgecombe County wasn’t one of the highest paying areas in the county,” Craddock said. But he and his wife Jennifer, an educator at W.A. Pattillo School, have established “deep roots” and strong relationships in the community and are here to stay.
Craddock does believe salary is a factor in motivating young people to come to the area to teach.
“A. It’s hard to get people to come to Edgecombe County to teach,” and “B. If they do come, it’s hard to get them to stay,” said Craddock. “I think we have quite a few people unfortunately that move and that hurts.”
Craddock sees mounting pressure being placed on teachers, in the form of End-of-Course tests and additional paperwork, without extra compensation.
“It just seems like more and more is being put on the teacher and less and less is being put in your pocket for what you have to do,” Craddock said.
He said he would like to see teachers’ salaries increase but doesn’t know where they money would come from.