Across North Carolina, thousands of our teachers are working toward an advanced degree – one that they hope will help them become better teachers. All of us share in that ambition because better teachers will help our students learn more and learn faster. Better teachers will better prepare our students to compete in the high-speed workplace of tomorrow.
But legislation passed in the last session doesn't view all of those teachers in graduate school equally. Some of them, the ones who can finish by this spring, will receive additional pay to recognize their hard work and effort in gaining an advanced degree. Others, who will finish after this spring, won't get that additional pay or recognition even though they've earned the same degrees as their colleagues who graduated earlier.
Whether you support paying for teachers' degrees or not, whether you believe that advanced degrees can improve teaching skills – and this has been a topic of discussion within our district in the past, as well as an ongoing one across the state – it's obvious that dividing up degree candidates so arbitrarily is inherently unfair. All of the teachers now enrolled in advanced-degree programs entered them in good faith. They knew the advanced degree would take time, effort and focus but they also believed that the additional education would make them better teachers and that this would be recognized in their paychecks. Our teachers are willing to be continuous learners and they deserve to be treated fairly and with equal respect, not segregated by an arbitrary deadline that only some can meet.
Since the legislative session ended, I have discussed this issue and the complexities of school staffing with many legislators. However, it has gained additional urgency with the opening of schools. As we work to fill teaching vacancies, we have been dismayed to see some teachers leaving our district and our state because of the unfairness of the new rules around getting a master's degree.
On behalf of North Carolina's hard-working and dedicated teachers, we ask that you grandfather in all teachers who began work on a master's degree before the new legislation was passed, so that we are treating our teachers fairly. The time to act is now. North Carolina is already paying teachers less than all but two other states. Now we need to recognize the tremendous contribution our teachers are making in our schools. Please work to amend the new law so that all teachers who enrolled in advanced-degree programs in good faith will be treated fairly.
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