The Transylvania Times -

Tough To Attract, Retain Teachers


February 22, 2018

Within the next few years, North Carolina, particularly its non-urban areas, including Transylvania County, could face a serious problem attracting and retaining veteran teachers.

As Colin Campbell notes in his adjacent column, new teachers in North Carolina receive a decent starting wage of $35,000 a year. And, as he says, many single people who just graduated from college would be content with that salary.

What is missing from Campbell’s column is the fact that while starting salaries for teachers have increased, other benefits have been cut. Teachers now pay more for their health insurance and their retirement benefits have been cut. In addition, career status, which prevented teachers from being terminated without cause, has been eliminated and has been replaced with one, two or four-year contracts.

The drawbacks are compounded as teachers become older and have families. After working for 10 years, a teacher’s salary increases just $10,550, roughly $500 a year. And it takes 25 years of teaching to reach the top salary of $51,300. That may seem like a healthy increase to people who do not have college degrees, but it’s not for most people who have four-year college degrees. Throw in the costs for day care or the cost of health insurance for other family members and teachers with families can be struggling.

The relatively low wage scale for veteran teachers and lack of long-term job security could be key contributors to a teacher shortage. Those factors are compounded by the fact that North Carolina is experiencing a population boom in the Piedmont’s metropolitan areas, yet the number of students who are entering teaching programs at our colleges and universities and who are graduating with teaching licenses is decreasing.

The deficit of teachers will have to be made up from out-of-state teachers. But that could be difficult. Many other states in the Southeast, such as Virginia, Florida and Georgia, pay higher salaries. Teachers in Florida also pay no state income tax. Tennessee only taxes dividend and interest income and plans to eliminate those taxes by 2020. Given those dynamics, it’s difficult to see why veteran teachers, or even those who have just received their teaching certificates, would decide to leave those states and come to North Carolina.

Many North Carolina counties are able to attract some of those teachers because they provide local supplements. But most of the state’s rural counties do not have the financial means to provide large supplements. As Campbell notes, North Carolina not only loses teachers to other states, but a greater problem is that smaller, rural systems lose their teachers to larger metropolitan areas.

The elimination of offering career status will hinder the recruitment of veteran teachers. Why would a veteran teacher leave a secure job in another state to teach three years here with no job security?

When people argue that good teachers do not have to worry about being terminated in those first three years, they do not fully understand how hiring works in North Carolina. A good teacher might have to be let go in his or her second year because there has been a decrease in funding. And in some cases, when a school hires a football coach or person for another highly valued position, that person may not relocate unless their spouse also is provided a job. Thus, a good teacher in her first three years could lose her job so that someone else’s spouse or coach can have a job. (This scenario is even more probable when a coach who has career status or a four-year contract resigns his coaching position but keeps his teaching position.)

At the turn of the century, when Jim Hunt was governor, salaries for teachers in North Carolina ranked 19th in the nation. Teachers also had better health and retirement plans. And teachers who had done a good job had job security as long as they continued to do a good job. (North Carolina teachers have never had tenure and career status teachers could be terminated with just cause.) And school administrators in places like Transylvania County had dozens of people applying for just one position.

That is no longer the case. A shortage of qualified teachers, particularly veteran teachers, seems imminent. To avoid that shortage, the state will have to begin treating teachers as it did at the turn of the century.


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