State's drop in salary rankings criticized

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 4, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
One of the things that prompted James Reile to moved to North Carolina about four years ago to take a teaching position was because the state’s education system seemed to be prospering.
Now, the Corriher-Lipe Middle School teacher isn’t so sure.
Since then, the state has fallen to 45th in the National Teacher Salary Rankings — the worst in 64 years, according the the North Carolina Association of Educators.
“We ranked in the middle and now we’re at the bottom,” Reile said. “I hope it gets turned around soon, it can only go up from here.”
Reile was one of about 90 teachers and parents who traveled from Rowan County on Tuesday to attend the One Voice education rally, sponsored NCAE. More than 30 people from Kannapolis City Schools attended the event.
“I think it’s important for teachers to stand up and be heard,” Kathy Haynes, a language arts teacher at Erwin Middle School, said. “We try so hard to do the best we can with what we’re given, but at some point we’ve got to stop cutting things if we’re going to prepare students for the 21st century.”
Jane Cooper, president of Rowan-Salisbury retired school personnel, said competitive salaries have to be offered to hire and retain good teachers.
“We need to keep teacher salaries up,” she said. “We’re not going to get good teachers in Rowan-Salisbury schools if we can’t afford to pay them.”
With the state’s education allotment facing a 9 percent cut under a House-written budget proposal, the salary ranking could fall further.
And the NCAE says the decrease in funding could mean the loss of 4,056 teachers, 11,086 teacher assistants, 640 principals and assistant principals, 870 instructional support jobs, 1,190 bus drivers and custodians and 690 administrative and clerical positions statewide.
“It’s definitely going to affect the classroom directly,” Reile said. “As a teacher I have to pull money out of my own pockets for supplies and technology.”
Marian Thompson, a counselor at West Rowan Middle, said she was there to speak up for others who couldn’t make it.
“I’m concerned about everybody’s job, not just mine,” she said. “But, I’m mainly concerned about how much our students are going to suffer because of more cuts.”
Greg Lowe, president of the Rowan-Salisbury Association of Educators, strongly supports extending the temporary one cent sales tax, which House lawmakers tentatively voted to allow to expire Tuesday.
“We are already paying it so people won’t miss it and it could save jobs,” he said.
Reile agrees the tax should stay put.
“I also think they should increase taxes on alcohol and cigarettes as well,” he said. “I think that would help tremendously.”
Katie King, a teacher at Corriher-Lipe, said she supports the tax as a means of saving jobs.
“If they were to reduce the sales tax, we are looking at about a 15 percent cut in teacher positions,” she said.
Lowe said a group of more than 20 teachers from Rowan-Salisbury schools met with Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Rowan, Tuesday afternoon.
“We were giving him our point of view and he was giving us his,” he said.
Reile said he appreciated Brock taking an hour to talk with the educators. He said Brock told the group he was working to preserve the state’s retirement system for educators.
Lowe said if people take nothing else away from the Raleigh rally he hopes it’s to keep fighting.
“Keep calling, keep emailing, keep writing your legislators,” he said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.