By: Kristin McCarthy Faucher
Mooresville Graded School District Educator
Here is the letter I am sending to the representative who met with us yesterday:
I wanted to write to say thank you for meeting with us yesterday. We were all appreciative of your time, and realize these are complex issues. I also recognize that you were one in a room full of passionate people.
My daughter, who is in 4th grade, was in that room yesterday. She sat behind me, and on a few occasions, poked me with an umbrella when she thought I was becoming too passionate. As a parent, I wanted her to see democracy in action, and what she experienced yesterday was invaluable.
My daughter is quiet. She is an observer. She is also very smart. At one point in the meeting, she started drawing in my planner. Later, when I looked in it, I was surprised at what she had drawn.
On the way home yesterday evening, I took the opportunity to ask her about it. I am no way trying to be disparaging, but that drawing is her interpretation of you during our meeting. Her actual words were, “Mom, he said he was not qualified to answer that question a lot of times. How is he not qualified? I thought he was our person in government.”
What followed was a discussion about the amount of information regarding legislation that you are inundated with, and the reality that many times, items are voted on and snuck through bills without the knowledge of the people actually voting (such as the pay scale that you admitted to not knowing about the actual percentages of who received what amount, only that it was a 6% average). I am aware that there is so much behind the scenes going on in your position that we, the public, know nothing about.
But, my point in all of this, is that I defended you to my daughter. I gave you the benefit of the doubt. I am not so sure however, that you, or any legislators within your party, are giving that same respect to my colleagues and me. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes every single day in one classroom, let alone one school, that the general public (and apparently our own legislators), have no idea about.
I am asking that you give me, and my colleagues, the same courtesy as I gave you. I want my daughter to have faith in our government. I don’t want to influence her with my negative feelings toward the NCGA, that have come from being beaten down and disrespected over the past 22 years of my service to the children of our state.
You seem like a decent man. You were open to meeting with us all. You were polite and respectful, which I have heard was not necessarily the same experience as others had yesterday. I have faith that you have done the best with the information you had. But as I say to students every day who make mistakes, “When you know better, do better.”
What my ten-year old daughter, myself, and my colleagues took away from yesterday’s meeting was that perhaps, you simply do not know enough about the issues of education with which you are responsible for voting. I understand that you cannot be an expert on every issue. But we, the teachers, ARE experts in our field, and we are begging and pleading for you to listen to us! Thousands of educators paid for their own transportation, and traveled many miles and back in one day, to be able to return to our schools today. This was not out of greed. It was out of necessity!
After having time to process, as a lot of information was thrown around that room yesterday, I realized no notes had been taken. So, I wanted to take the opportunity to reiterate some of our main concerns to you in black and white. This way you can refer to them, investigate them, and hopefully ask some really tough questions to members of your party. The effect of these decisions being made to the detriment of our children (who have no party affiliation whatsoever), will be felt for years to come.
These issues are in no particular order:
What is happening to veteran teachers in this state, is flat out wrong. In no other profession, do you lose pay for your years of service. Longevity pay is the equivalent to an annual bonus for state employees, which you receive after ten years of service. All other state employees still receive it—except, now, teachers. Please investigate and attempt to justify this. Here is an article you can start with for perspective.
As a more experienced teacher (now in my 23rd year), I did not benefit from the first round of pay increases after our pay freeze from the recession. Several times you said when I mentioned losing money in our discussion with you, that I must be wrong. If I hadn’t seen a raise in my paycheck, that there must be a mistake. Please consider this quote regarding the increases that began again after the freeze:
“The operative word here is “average.” Beginning teachers saw an average pay hike of over ten percent, yet the more years a teacher had, the less of a “raise” was given. The result was an AVERAGE hike of 6.9 percent, but it was not an even distribution. In fact, some veterans saw a reduction in annual pay because much of the “raise” was funded with what used to be longevity pay. And as a teacher who has been in North Carolina for these past ten years, I can with certainty tell you that my salary has not increased by 6.9 percent.”
Add to this, the increasing cost of healthcare, we have lost money. Now, with the new proposal, those with the most experience, will be once again receive absolutely nothing.
North Carolina requires highly qualified professionals to teach in our schools. Yet, teachers can now receive no compensation for obtaining a graduate degree. So, in essence, if a teacher pursues higher education, they will lose money due to receiving no pay increase for their degree, but accruing student loan debt.
Bonus Structure/Merit Pay:
Initiatives like merit pay, and bonuses for test scores, have no place in our education system. You heard it coming straight from the mouths of teachers who were the recipients of some of this money. We recognize that it is the combined efforts of a school community to make a child successful, along with the teachers that came before. You cannot justify rewarding a particular set of teachers from a certain subject, or grade level. That money (to the tune of approximately forty-one million dollars), could have been better spent adjusting the base salary of all teachers.
Charter schools drain valuable resources from public schools, under the guise of giving parents “school choice”. Over $513,000,000 of taxpayer monies were distributed to the 167 Charter School in North Carolina in 2017. All the while, they are given financial and educational flexibility and freedoms that public schools are not. Charter schools are only required to have 50% of their teachers certified. Charter schools can also be exclusive, whereas public schools are all-inclusive. Charter schools may also be run by for-profit, out of state companies. They are essentially taking public, tax payer money, as their profit. There is so much additional, alarming information on the matter of charter schools, but the articles below would be a great starting point in your investigation.
“It has been shown that much of the money from Opportunity Grants has been used in tuition costs for small (oftentimes religious) schools who do not have to show test results unless they garner an extremely high amount of money from the voucher system. It’s like they do not even have to show growth, the very variable that lawmakers continue to hark on for public schools.
Put simply, legislation creates a moving and insanely difficult target for public schools to show proficiency that then creates a false need for vouchers to schools that do not even have to show any growth, a need so great that it will cost almost $900 million dollars in the next ten years to “fix”. That is almost one billion dollars going to a program that has failed to show any effectiveness.” If that is not alarming, I do not know what is. That money could go a long way in improving the conditions of our public schools!
In closing, while we did touch on other areas of concern, such as The Education Lottery, retirement benefits, testing, and teacher retention, I believe I have given you a good place to start. I will follow up with insight into these issues, and please feel free to share any and all information to the rest of your colleagues.
Public education should not be a partisan issue, but unfortunately, it has been made so by the powers that be. Our state’s constitution specifically ensures that every student is entitled to a quality public education. It is a public good. We, as educators, and you, as a legislator, are providing a public service. The key word here is “public” and not “private".
Unfortunately, we have been pushed to the brink. My daughter can poke me with that umbrella all she wants, but I will not be quiet. I hope that everyone in the General Assembly realized this yesterday. Educators are a tough breed. We do not give up easily. Not when the future of our children is at stake.
I thank you again, for giving us your time yesterday, and I thank you in advance for learning all you can about the issues facing our public schools, so that you will no longer have to say, “I am not qualified to give that answer.”
The quoted information was taken from the following: