The following is a submission from an educator as part of the Your Soapbox feature, which explores the experiences of educators in North Carolina through their own words. Check out more first person stories here, or if you are an educator, submit your own.
The State of Education
I write this for my sons, who at 7 and 13, could be cheated out of the education they deserve because lawmakers have decided to attack the very education system that makes North Carolina so strong. I write this for my young colleagues who have NEVER gotten a raise — all the while working harder and harder, many going in to school to work on Sundays to “get work done.” For those energetic, young, college-education professionals who “bleed” education, but who have to take second and THIRD jobs just to make enough to support themselves — I write this for you. So many of them are making the painful decision to leave this career, one of the noblest of all professions, because they are over-worked, under-appreciated, and under attack for no reason. I write this for my more experienced brethren who cannot afford to stay because of lack of pay and soaring insurance premiums.
How many teachers must we lose before North Carolina realizes that a dynamic, well-paid cadre of educators makes our workforce strong and makes North Carolina attractive to out-of-state companies? Why is it so hard to see that our great state has become a laughing stock because of how it has treated some of its finest citizens? When will lawmakers realize that you cannot preach collaboration and cooperation among teachers but only pay 25% of us a decent wage? When will those who we elect finally understand that you cannot run an education system like a business, that teachers are what’s right about education and are not the enemy?
Is it because lawmakers remember the old days when teachers sat behind desks, lectured, showed filmstrips, and read newspapers? I can assure you that the old days are LONG gone. After twenty years teaching, I can testify that I work among the finest group of educators I’ve ever seen. And I am not alone. Across Cabarrus County and across the “Great North State,” teachers are doing so much more with so much less.
It pains me to watch as teacher after teacher walk away from a career they felt was “a calling.” It’s simple economics. Sixty hours of work and a 4-year college degree should result in more than $30,000 of income, especially considering the enormous challenges that go along with teaching. Now, our lawmakers have decided that more education is not worth paying for: that teachers who pursue master’s degrees shouldn’t get paid more. Where is the logic in dissuading career-minded, lifelong learners from continuing their education? In what profession do those who continue to learn not earn more than their counterparts who do not?
But I am a parent, too. We parents need to rise up and say enough is enough. I don’t want my boys and the youth of this state to pay for lawmakers’ ignorance. We are losing good, young talent. The future of our education system is walking away in alarming numbers. The basis of our democracy, what separates us from third-world dictatorships, is the right to free education for all, not just the wealthy. Subsidizing private schools that employ fewer licensed teachers and are not subject to the same rigorous standards as we in the public sector is insanity. The public school system is under intense scrutiny. Where will the accountability be for all the millions of dollars leaving our public system to private schools’ coffers? We cannot sit back and allow for profit institutions (who are more interested in making their shareholders money) to steal away needed funds from our public schools.
Morale is at an all time low in education. We love our students, a feeling illustrated every time there is a tragedy at a school and teachers selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to protect their students. Many of us consider our students to be our own kids and our schools, our second homes. There aren’t many professions who care for and nurture the way we in education do. For the majority of us, this is not just a job. It’s time for North Carolina to recognize and reward teachers and administrators for the past five years of stagnation, a time when more was asked and little was returned.
Central Cabarrus High School
-Keith Maletta: Central Cabarrus High School