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Lynn Haynes: Teachers say, give it to us straight

By Lynn Haynes

Special to the Salisbury Post

Well, they have done it again! The N.C. Senate passed a budget that includes an average 6.5 percent raise for teachers. Sounds great, right? The general public will think, “What are these teachers complaining about? They have been getting raises; I read about it in the paper!”

Folks, please pay attention to the fine print. Average means that not everyone gets a raise, and in this case, just like the last time, those of us who have dedicated our lives to the children of North Carolina get screwed. No raises again for those with the most experience.

That means my salary will continue to be frozen without even an increase to allow for inflation. How long has it been frozen, eight years now? I continue to lose money every year I teach due to the rising cost of living.

Why don’t they just come out and be honest about it? Tell us you want your most experienced teachers to leave education. Tell us you don’t want to give us a raise because you don’t want to increase our future retirement amounts. Tell us you don’t think we are useful anymore — because that’s what it boils down to.

I know you want to attract more young teachers to our state because we certainly are in trouble here., but think about this: A new college graduate does not step into a management position. They need to learn the ropes and gain experience by working with those in the company that have it.

Why is education any different? New teachers come to us with great enthusiasm, wonderful ideas, and a firm knowledge base, but who do you think helps them learn the ropes? Who do you think helps them handle situations that can’t be learned without experience?

Senators, I ask you, would you be satisfied in a job where you knew no matter how hard you worked you will never receive a raise? Would you rush to offer your time to serve on after-hour committees, mentor new employees, or organize after hour clubs and activities without a stipend?

Would you continue to have the same enthusiasm about your work if those around you with far less experience continue to get raises and you do not? (And by the way, the last time it happened you lost your longevity pay to fund their raises!)

Listen, you may think what you are doing is improving the education we offer in our state but you are wrong. I watch excellent, experienced teachers leave education every year feeling unappreciated and demoralized. I watch bright, eager new teachers walk in only to leave soon after because they don’t have the support of experienced teachers to help them navigate through the tough first years as an educator. I have known teachers who encouraged students to consider education as a future career. I don’t know a single one that recommends it now, at least not in North Carolina. The way teacher salaries are being handled by the state is tearing down our education system from the inside out.

Oh yes, before I forget, I would like to address those who say we should be teaching because we are dedicated to our students, not for the money. If I was not dedicated to my students I would not have survived the 30 years I have worked 60 hour weeks to give them the very best curriculum I can provide. But you know what? I have yet to have a bill arrive with, “We understand you are a teacher. This ones on us!” stamped across the balance due.

Haynes works in the Rowan-Salisbury schools.

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