Letter: Pay teachers what they’re truly worth

Graphic by Lori Deaton

If Asheville and Buncombe County are to maintain a vibrant and growing economy with a stable workforce, it is essential that the Asheville City Schools system and the Buncombe County Schools system rank in the top 10% in performance measures in school districts in the state of North Carolina.

The single major factor to a quality school system is the recruiting and long-term retention of highly motivated and highly skilled educators. The bottom line is that you get what you pay for. And with the cost of living in our community, we don’t pay educators enough to recruit and maintain them. Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools should strive to have the highest teacher salaries in the state of North Carolina.

Because of low salaries, universities are finding it difficult to get students to choose teaching as a career path. With fewer qualified available educators, our two local school districts are going to have to outbid other districts for top-quality educators. With the current salary structure, a new college graduate hired to teach in our two school districts may be spending close to 50% of their pretax income on the rent of an apartment that averages $1,500 a month.

It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to understand that the teacher turnover rate is going to be higher because it’s difficult to maintain residence in Asheville and Buncombe County on a starting teacher’s salary of $40,000 a year. Across the board, teachers need to be paid approximately $15,000 more per year. That means a starting salary for a new teacher of between $50,000 and $55,000 a year.

In addition, there need to be annual salary increases. Teachers should not have to resign their positions to take another full-time job in this community or someplace else, wherein on average their salary will go up approximately $15,000 a year. Pay teachers the extra $15,000 a year to keep them here and to keep them motivated to continue to work in the craft they were educated for. It’s important to remember that the state of North Carolina and the Republican-controlled state legislature are sitting on a $6 billion surplus, of which $4 billion can be redistributed to a variety of programs, including increasing teacher pay.

There is not a single good reason why a teacher who is responsible for the learning and well-being of their students should be paid any less than a first-year nurse who is responsible for her patients and has a starting salary in our community of $60,000 a year. This figure is even more astonishing when, under the current salary structure of the Department of Public Instruction in North Carolina, the top salary for a teacher with 25 years of experience is $54,000 (plus the county supplement).

This is why Buncombe County Commissioner Amanda Edwards is calling for a statewide teachers walkout. Because almost nothing else is working, it’s a great way to get the attention of North Carolina politicians and the general public. To raise educators’ salaries in our community, if this means raising taxes, so be it.

Perhaps members of the City Council or county board can, with their collective knowledge, find other creative ways to pay our teachers a living wage. Perhaps money from the tourism board or a 1% or 2% education lodging tax for visitors staying in our community. The bottom line is: Without higher salaries for educators, not only will our students suffer, but so will the entire community. To recruit and retain professional educators, it’s quite simple: Pay teachers what they’re truly worth to our children and to our community. It really shouldn’t be all that hard.

— Richard Boyum


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5 thoughts on “Letter: Pay teachers what they’re truly worth

  1. Feel the Burn

    Maybe when teachers teach reading, writing, math, and history we can pay their worth. Teaching social justice, BLM, trans propaganda is not in the realm of education.

      • Feel the Burn

        Ridiculous? ACT’s, SAT’s at an all time low. Maybe they should change the test and provide more social justice questions. Mid thirties people still living in mom and dad’s basement with no skills to succeed. Yep that’s ridiculous.

  2. indy499

    Revenue in the city and county has zoomed beyond inflation adjusted population increases. Plenty of $ being spent on nonsense that could be used in education for higher salaries. Of course, plenty of efficiency gains available in education, as well. Literally no good reason to have separate city and county school systems—unless you count having a bloated admin job as a benefit.

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