On Saturday, the NC NAACP and other coalition partners met for the 13th Annual HKonJ (Historic Thousands on Jones Street) People’s Assembly Moral March on Raleigh in Downtown Raleigh. Per WRAL

Moral March leaders promote health care for all, living wages, collective bargaining for public workers and ending the death penalty. Immigration and racial inequities also get attention.
Organizers hope to make an impression on lawmakers. More like-minded lawmakers are now in North Carolina's General Assembly and in Congress following Democratic gains last November.

Read more about the 14-point People's Agenda and how you can get more involved with the HKonJ Coalition here.

In the 2017-2018 State of the Teaching Profession in North Carolina, the State Board of Education reports to the NCGA. In this report, we see that teacher attrition has declined as compared to the two previous school years from 9% to 8.1%. But are conditions really improving? While Republican Senate leadership finds the numbers encouraging, education leaders in NC like Mark Jewell, President of NCAE,  recognize little significant difference in these numbers. Kris Nordstrom, education finance and policy consultant for the N.C. Justice Center's Education and Law Project says the legislature "can do more to support schools, teachers and students. . . . The economy is improving. . . . Teacher pay is improving. You have slightly less turnover."

Perhaps we should focus on a few numbers specifically. First, nine percent of teachers who resigned cited going to teach in another state as the reason. We know that other states are recruiting NC teachers due to better pay, class sizes, and per pupil spending. (Read more here.)

Second, 123 teachers quit because they were dissatisfied with teaching. While critics like Terry Stoops, vice president of research for the John Locke Foundation, says this number shows that there is a perception of a problem with attrition instead of an actual problem. He states "teachers are generally remaining in the profession." However, teachers and members of NC public education advocacy groups disagree saying that some teachers do not have the choice to leave even if they are dissatisfied because of financial obligations. Read more about the high turnover rates of beginning teachers and teachers nearing retirement. NC Policy Watch further details reasons teachers do not leave (including the desire to help fix the problems and help their students) with quotes from Stu Egan's blog, Caffeinated Rage. Egan also adds that the attrition rate is not likely to continue to climb because so many teachers have already left. He reminds us that 20,000 to 30,000 teachers marched right after the data was collected for the attrition report and that we cannot ignore those dissatisfied voices.

Other disheartening numbers include nearly 12% of teachers listing career change as their reason for resigning and 54% listing personal reasons. As a teacher who has left the profession twice since I started teaching in 2003. I can safely say the generic category choices given to you when you resign do not paint a clear picture of your reason for leaving. When I indicated "personal reasons" upon making the agonizing decision to resign in 2015,  it did not capture the fact that I was working 60+ hours a week with a four-month-old and a four-year-old with whom I rarely spent time. There was no where on the form to elaborate on how I really should have taken a year of leave when the baby was born but just could not afford to until my husband got a better job with benefits. However, I soon realized that after taxes, two child care payments, and my graduate school loans were taken out of my check, there was not much left. I put my loans in deferment and became a stay-at-home parent. I am thankful for that opportunity but recognize that many teachers do not have options.

One of the scariest things in the decision of whether or not to resign was figuring out whether or not my graduate pay status would be reinstated after I returned to teaching (and I knew I wanted to return). I was assured I would return with graduate pay but was terrified knowing that if that changed I could not afford to return to teaching. This brings me to the last point in today's blog. How many teachers have we lost with advanced degrees to other states? How many teachers decided not to get advanced degrees or decided to change careers to get paid for their advanced degrees?

In 2013, the Republican led NCGA took away advanced degree pay for teachers only allowing those who were already being paid at that level or those currently in graduate programs to keep the pay supplements. Last week, a Senate bill [was introduced that] would restore extra pay for teachers with advanced degrees. Mark Jewell, President of NCAE, said he never would have moved to NC in the 1990s to teach if they did not pay the extra 10% salary for advanced degrees. He would probably have gone to a different state. If Senate Bill 28 or one like it is passed and advanced degree pay is brought back for NC teachers, this would be a major step in the right direction. So are conditions improving for NC teachers? Yes, we hope, but we cannot wait for change.

When teachers marched on May 16, 2018, we came together to say, we are in this together for our students. We stepped up as one voice to make improvements for our students and our profession. Maybe the attrition rate did not rise because teachers knew that after we rallied in downtown Raleigh, we would march to the polls to cast our ballots to vote pro-public education candidates into office and vote people out who did not have our best interests in mind. Our collective voice became powerful. Let your voice be heard! Contact Senators Britt and Horner and your legislators with support for SB 28. Then be ready to call and email again and again as other needs arise.

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