N.C. teacher exodus is also about development

06/14/2014 12:00 AM

06/14/2014 1:21 AM

From Mary Ellis, Superintendent of Union County Public Schools:

Education in North Carolina is under siege. Many teachers are leaving the state to teach in neighboring states after being faced with years of stagnant pay, the elimination of pay increases for advanced degrees, and the ending of career status.

A recent assault on the profession is the proposed elimination of North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT), a wonderful professional development facility for the teachers of North Carolina. It will be eliminated as of June 30 under Governor Pat McCrory’s recommended budget.

NCCAT is a shining star in staff development offerings for North Carolina teachers who seek opportunities to develop specific teaching skills. Through programs like NCCAT, teachers can target the skills they need to stay on the cutting edge in technology and science.

I was fortunate to participate in NCCAT programs twice as a teacher, and each assisted me in becoming a better teacher. In addition, I have watched countless teachers take advantage of the opportunity, as a principal and now as superintendent of the Union County Public Schools.

NCCAT ably assists and has been credited with helping multiple schools progress from low performing to top performing. To show the support among teachers for this facility, the battle to keep NCCAT afloat is spreading statewide, with educators starting petitions to keep this vital professional development tool alive.

We do not have the luxury to bury our heads in the sand in this critical time for education in North Carolina. The state’s Annual Report on Teachers Leaving the Profession noted that the number of teachers leaving the classroom in North Carolina reached a five-year high during the 2012-13 school year.

Wake County alone, which employs 9,000 teachers, witnessed 600 teachers quit just since the school year began. The assault on education in this state is beginning to take its toll on educators.

Salary is a big part of the problem. According to the National Education Association, North Carolina has seen the sharpest decline in the United States in teacher pay. The state now ranks 46th in the nation in teacher pay. Educators haven’t seen a real pay raise since salaries were frozen in 2008.

While salary is a major part of the battle for public education in North Carolina, teachers must be supported in their efforts to continue to grow and develop. NCCAT’s vision of assisting North Carolina teachers to grow in knowledge, skills, compassion, and professionalism so that every student becomes engaged, self-motivated and successful, is paramount to our children and our economy.

Education in North Carolina has taken far too great a hit; the profession is reeling from past decisions. Providing funding for NCCAT is one step forward in helping to keep educators strong.

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