After Election, North Carolina Pressing to Address Teacher Turnover

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As election results settle, education officials in North Carolina are figuring out how to staunch the bleeding. Last year, according to the Department of Public Instruction’s Annual Report on Teachers Leaving the Profession, more teachers from North Carolina left to teach in other states than the number who left the year before.

Reasons included dissatisfaction and a desire for a career change, write Lynn Bonner and T. Keung Hui of the News & Observer.  DPI’s director of educator effectiveness, Lynn Johnson, said that the top reason teachers resigned was to seek teaching jobs in other North Carolina districts.

Legislators approved an average 7% raise for teachers, but that was after the Houston Independent School District made recruiting trips to North Carolina to lure teachers to Texas with promises of higher pay and better benefits. 734 teachers resigned to teach in another state in 2013-2014, up from 455 the previous year. North Carolina districts employed 96,010 teachers in the last school year.

Another reason for resignations was a new reporting category, “resigned in lieu of dismissal.” In other words, 140 teachers allegedly resigned because they knew they were about to be fired. Although the new state report states that in Wake County, the state’s largest system, turnover dropped from 12.1% to 11.51%.  But Tim Simmons, a Wake schools spokesman, said last week that the report does not cover teachers who left since March. In the district 1,210 teachers resigned during the 2013-2014 school year compared to 906 in the prior year and 609 in the 2009-2010 year. Many teachers resign at the end of the school year and during the summer months.

Democrats used the resignation numbers to attack their Republican opponents throughout the election season, and the charges will likely continue. Republicans counter that the 7% pay raise shows they are dealing with the problem.  The increase included longevity pay, but veteran teachers were far below raises given given to less experienced teachers.

North Carolina’s teachers are among the lowest paid in the country, writes Emery Dalesio of the Associated Press. Gov. Pat McCory said:

“Teaching is difficult work and we need to continue to respect and reward our teachers to keep them in the profession,” McCrory said. “The next step is to work with the General Assembly to create career opportunities and choices that help retain our excellent teachers.”

Alexis Schauss, the school business director at the state DPI, said that although payroll data shows 95,171 classroom teachers working full time in September, down by approximately 450 from last year, this is an inexact picture of teacher employment. She stated that at the beginning of the year schools are still hiring to fill vacant positions and some educators are waiting for their teaching licenses to be processed.

Class sizes are also in flux because student enrollment is still being totaled. More public schools, according to the report, are finding it difficult to fill positions in fields that are in the greatest demand like math, science, and special education.

Gov. McCrory added, “We saw the highest turnover in our rural counties and among STEM and special education teachers. These are areas of critical need, and ones I will continue to focus on moving forward. We must strengthen incentives for teachers to work in our highest-need subjects and schools.”

Mark Jewell, vice president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, told Andrea Blanford of WTVD-TV that the governor was just paying lip service to the problem. He believes that in order to have a quality education system like the one that North Carolina has had over the past 50 years, stronger investment needs to be made. Educating children is not something that can be done cheaply, he says.

“We never had to be competitive with our border states but when they can go there and make a $10,000 increase and not even have to relocate their families,” he said. “That’s a problem.”