North Carolinians are anxiously awaiting the General Assembly’s final decision on the budget for the next two years. While the Senate’s version of the budget passed with a 32-15 vote, there is still bargaining and work to be done before the final form of the appropriations act is passed. For parents, teachers, and students, there is much at stake in the coming weeks.
As a prospective English teacher studying in Wake Forest University’s Secondary Education program, I am apprehensive about the implications this budget will have for public schools. I worry that if certain aspects of the Senate’s budget become law, the state will continue to suffer a mass exodus of teachers from North Carolina.
I was born and raised here.
I love our state and I want to be part of its future.
But ever since announcing my plans to pursue a teaching license, the pressure to leave the state, start my teaching career in a better environment, or abandon my dream altogether seems to dominate.
When I talk with my peers, I sometimes notice a glimpse of embarrassment when I tell them I want to teach. This look says, “Why waste your time in a job that pays so little?”
I am well aware of the fact that teaching is not lucrative.
My longing to be in the classroom and desire to serve my state makes that a tradeoff I am willing to make.
Recently, however, my resolve has been tested as people who share my passion for education have warned me against working in my home state. Students in my program often ask each other if they plan to teach in North Carolina. The answer is often no and the state’s poor track record in teacher pay is usually the reason.
Teacher flight is often the result of teachers feeling under appreciated by the state’s policies on education, compounded by low pay. The possibility that parts of the Senate’s plan might become law does little to entice me or others to stay in North Carolina to teach.
Reaching a compromise on the budget by July 1 will be difficult. The Senate’s budget totals $21.47 billion, an increase of about 2 percent from last year. In contrast, the House proposed a $22.2 billion plan. If the Senate’s policies on education spending are adopted, I foresee more current and prospective teachers fleeing the state in the coming years.
The Senate’s plan adds thousands of new teachers whose salaries would climb to $35,000, bringing us just below the national average. However, their budget fails to reward veteran teachers and teachers with advanced degrees. It allocates only $58 million to textbooks and digital resources, a fraction of what is needed in our classrooms. Perhaps the starkest difference between the two education budgets is the Senate’s plan to cut funding for teacher assistants. Recognizing TAs as vital resources in the classroom, the House maintains funding for them. By spending more on new teachers and less on resources for students, the Senate’s budget sends a message of appeasement instead of genuine concern for the future of education in our state.
As a prospective teacher, I hope the negotiations retain little from the Senate’s budget, which eliminates jobs and resources, and focus on uplifting both teachers and students with the funding they need to succeed.
Whatever compromise the General Assembly reaches, it needs to send the message to future teachers that we will be supported throughout our career with consistent and adequate funding.