My Turn: Adair Doran — ‘Safeguard of democracy’ short-changed
I have read with interest the articles on teaching that the Salisbury Post published recently along with the comments that people make concerning the teaching profession over the past few months and wanted to add my perspective.
I have taught history and social studies in the North Carolina schools since 1979 and have spent the last 25 years at Salisbury High School (SHS). I can remember commenting in the 1980s, when we had a freeze on teachers’ salaries, that things couldn’t get any worse. What a naïve young teacher I was.
I can truly say that, as an experienced teacher, things are worse now than they have ever been.
When I first arrived at SHS 25 years ago, as a department we gave a wish list of resources we would like to have for the next year. This included history videos, resource books (never textbooks), maps, atlases and anything else you could imagine you might need. Most of these items were then ordered over the summer and waiting for us when we returned. With this I was able to order wall maps of Europe, the United States and the world as well as a flip chart of history maps for my AP European History class.
In addition, the local school administration asked us what supplies we needed — pens, papers, markers, tape, tape dispensers, pencil sharpeners, paper clips, construction paper, etc. The school ordered all these supplies and again we picked them up for our classrooms when we returned.
The NC Department for Public Instruction (DPI) indicates that the dollars for instructional supplies were reduced from $59 per student in 2008-09 to about $28 per student in 2014-15.
New books for the different subjects were supplied every five years, and we looked over all the choices and the resources they included and selected what we believed was best for our students.
About 15 years ago, we were surprised when we were not allowed to purchase new books, and we have not seen new textbooks in our department since then. Unfortunately, we sent some of our textbooks to other schools in need because we were in anticipation of getting new ones. Currently, some of our classes are using textbooks that are very old and falling apart, or they don’t even have a hard copy of the textbooks at all.
In our American history classes, we have one classroom set of books for seven different teachers to use.
The amount of textbook funding per student has gone from about $68 per student in 2008-09 to about $15 per student in 2014-15. That is a 78 percent reduction. It has not improved much since.
Although we have access to older versions of our textbooks online, the students still prefer to read hard copies of their books and retain the information better when they have a book in their hand, just as they retain the information better when they write it than when they type it.
Over the past few years, our General Assembly has claimed to have raised salaries for teachers consistently, but the levels still do not compare to what we had before the Great Recession. Our state legislature no longer pays for a master’s degree in one’s field. They do pay for a National Board’s certification, once you receive it, but no longer pay the fee to attain your national boards. This is well over $2,000 and is not something teachers can take on lightly.
If you are a veteran teacher, you have not received much of a salary increase — certainly nowhere close to the 6 percent that is claimed as average. And with the loss of our longevity pay, we have actually lost money over the past few years.
The General Assembly demanded more resources be spent in certain areas, but rarely have they provided money for these changes.
According to Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
If we want our state and our country to be the best, we need to take the education of our students seriously and supply the resources and salaries appropriate to provide this.
Adair G. Doran of Salisbury teaches at Salisbury High School.
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