Fully Fund Our Schools: A Statement From the CHCCS PTA President

wmjehall's picture

This is the statement I delivered to the Orange County Board of Commissioners during last night's meeting. The comments are posted here as well as the PTA Council blog.

Good evening. My name is Jeff Hall. I am the President of the Chapel Hill / Carrboro City Schools PTA Council.

Up until a few hours ago, I fully expected to read to you the official statement of the PTA Council, asking you to fully fund the budget request of both CHCCS and Orange County Schools. It is a great statement, with supporting facts and based on talking points that were developed in collaboration with parents, teachers and students across the district. But, you already know that. I emailed it to you a month ago.

But as I thought more about who I was talking to, I decided to change it up.

A couple of weeks ago I was on WCHL talking about the school budget. Aaron Keck asked me where I would start to cut the county budget to free up money for schools. I told him that if I was a County Commissioner I would start by looking for a quiet place to write my resignation. I don’t envy the depth and complexity of the job before you.

I also know that this body has historically shown a serious commitment to education in our community, despite challenges. I know that at the tables in front of me are some of the most talented people in our county, ready to do something positive yet again. But if there is one thought that I could leave you with tonight it is that this year is different.

Things are different in Raleigh.

The ominous warnings we heard from the NCGA at this same time last year have turned into an all-out assault on teachers, on the very concept of free public education. There is no help coming from across the Triangle.

Things are different in our district.

The extraordinary measures taken by the school board the last few years have run their course. There is no more fund balance. Grant monies have long been spent. Failure to fully fund schools means people lose jobs and kids lose educational opportunities.

Things are different with our parents.

Look around at the passion in this room. We are tired of seeing our kid’s education become a political chew toy. We are tired of teachers not making a living wage. We are tired of hearing that NEXT year is the year we do something, NEXT year we raise revenue or cut costs, NEXT year we fix old and overcrowded schools.

There is no next year.

We are insisting, demanding, we are begging you to fully fund our schools.

We don’t care how you do it.

Raise taxes. Cut costs. Pull from the county’s fund balance. Again, we don’t care how you do it.

But be like Nike. Just do it.

You were elected to those chairs because we believed in your ability to do this. Because we trusted in your ability to lead.

Now is the time.

THIS is the year.

Fully fund our schools.

Thank you.

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Total votes: 2

17 Comments

Living Wage

I believe that teachers should be paid a professional salary. But the statement "We are tired of teachers not making a living wage" is misleading. A living wage for Orange County NC is around $24,000 per year. All teachers in NC make more than that. In Orange County, they make close to twice that amount. So let's skip the hyperbole and get down to helping everyone understand the issues, not play on their emotions--and emotions are always high when it comes to education issues.Based on my understanding of the CHCCS salary structure, a teacher with 5-10 years of experience is paid around $48,000 for 10 months of employment. That would translate out to around $57,000 for a 12 month contract. Teachers work long hours and invest their own funds to help their kids so I'm not saying that $48,000 or $57,000 (whichever way you chose to discuss it) is a professional wage. But it is far and above a living wage. (I'm writing quickly so if my math is a little bit off, I apologize--it's not intentional.)Of more importance to me is the fact that funds for teacher assistants have been cut at the elementary schools. Caring for young children requires a lot of attention that can be handled by those other than teachers so that the professional teachers can focus their attention on teaching. But is it within the means of Orange County to assume those costs when they are cut from the state budget? How do we do that and still supplement all the budget reductions for social services and Medicaid? This is an important discussion and education is vital to the continued health of our community, but I do not support drawing down the fund balance to supplement education. At least not until there is a broader work group that looks at how the state legislature decisions are going to affect the overall county budget. 

James Barrett's picture

living wage

Terri, there are many ways to calculate a living wage, and if I remember from my Justice United days, we were asking for closer to $30k.  A starting teacher in CHCCS makes less than $35k, so while you're technically correct it is above it is awfully close.  And I know plenty of teachers who work 2 jobs during the school year to make ends meet.  I guess any job where someone has to waitress at night/weekends on top of a full time position I would consider not meeting the spirit of a living wage. 

CHCCS website

There is so much generalization on this topic it's really hard to know what to believe. As I said, I believe teachers should receive a professional salary. But we have to stop generalizing and get down to the details. Here's the source of the information I posted: According to the CHCCS system website, teachers with 0-14 years experience receive a 12% local supplement. http://www.chccs.k12.nc.us/site_res_view_template.aspx?id=0d5cb0b3-d344-...According to the DPS website, a new teacher with a BA would earn $30,800http://www.ncpublicschools.org/fbs/finance/salary/Are you saying that CHCCS is not paying the local supplement?

James Barrett's picture

no

I said less than $35k.  The #s you cite are correct.  $30,800 plus 12% = 34,496, which would apply to CHCCS teachers today in years 1-6 (without masters)

For the record, I am a 4th

For the record, I am a 4th year teacher in CHCCS, making the amount Mr. Barrett specified above.  It's also important to remember that since raises have been on a statewide freeze for I believe 6 years now, there are 6th-year teachers that are only making $34,000 and change, or the same as 1st year teachers(!).

I'm  concerned by the generalization in your 2nd paragraph, where you say that "a teacher with 5-10 years of experience is paid around $48,000 for 10 months of employment."  Even without the pay freeze, I have no idea how that would be possible.   Checking the salary schedule confirms my suspicion, because a 10th year teacher with only a Bachelor's would make $37,000 (around $40,000 with the supplement).  

Even without a pay freeze, no 5th year teachers can make even 40k, unless they have both NB certification and a Master's (and keep in mind: the NC Legislature is trying to remove the salary bonus for teachers with Master's). The only teacher who would approximate your $48,000 in the 10th year is one who holds a Master's and is also National Board Certified, which is a very small percentage of the teaching population.  In fact, as a teacher with only a bachelor's, I would have to work over 20 years before I ever got into your 48k range, and at least 10 years before I even got into the 40s(!).  

Your intended point in that paragraph seems to be that teachers aren't really getting paid that little.  While your point about working 10 versus 12 months is valid, it's important not to exaggerate our salaries in order to embellish your argument.  We do not get paid much, and even though we only work 10 months, most of us are not loafing around during our vacation, we are working at something else.  With the elevated stress of recent years surrounding Common Core and teacher accountability, it can be downright grueling.

We get paid even less with a 6-year pay freeze (e.g., currently, a 10th year teacher with only a Bachelor's is only earning about $36,000, including supplement).  That is not a sustainable pay practice, especially for people with whom we are ostensibly trusting our children and their futures. 

Here's the link to the salary schedule.  When viewing, keep in mind that the pay freeze is not included, so you have to hop back about 5 or 6 years to figure out what NC teachers are actually earning by year (versus what they are supposed to be earning):

http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/docs/fbs/finance/salary/schedules/2013-14sche...

-Blake 

Thanks

I'll go back and review my calculations. I was a teacher-educator for many years so I am not anti-teacher. I know exactly how hard you work and have a great deal of respect for it. My concern is two fold, working on the underlying assumption that the school systems here or across the state are not going to get everything they want. That means choices have to be made. Do you want more money or do you want teacher assistants/smaller class sizes? For the elementary schools, I imagine there is greater personal benefit to the teachers and the students in having teacher assistants and smaller class sizes. For high school teachers, teacher assistants are not an issue but smaller class sizes means more time away from grading papers. My concern is that all the publicity has been about salary, not quality of work life (or student life). That forces teachers into a choice that may get them something of marginal value ($3,000/year) in exchange for additional hours and challenges on a day-to-day basis. I just can't imagine that salary increase is going to have any effect on teacher retention.My second concern is for the rural communities that don't get the local supplements. Those teachers have even fewer choices than Orange County teachers have, and their students need more support services. By creating a statewide dialog on salaries, we are masking the different challenges faced by the range of communities across the state. Those nurses are vital in very low income communities. And yet, now that the battle has been won on salaries, how do we continue to ask for more in this session and expect to be taken seriously? Especially when our seniors and special needs citizens are having their support services cut so drastically.The choice has been made, and while I'm sorry salaries are so low, I still think pressing for a salary increase was the wrong choice. And for the record, I firmly believe teachers should receive the same level of pay as IT or business professionals. But getting there is going to take strategy and determination.  

James Barrett's picture

agree

Terri, your points about having to make tradeoffs is exactly why I'm not a huge fan of the "pay our teachers first" movement.  Implicit in that title is salaries are more important than current staffing levels, which is not a choice I'm committed to making.  Everybody knows NC statewide is 46th in teacher pay, but to me the real issue is we are 48th in per-pupil funding.  I don't think you can raise teacher pay back to average without addressing the overall funding, because that doesn't actually help our students.  Of course, that's a level of logic that doesn't resonate in our overall lack-of-depth political discourse in America.

Please stop exaggerating.

I just wrote a long post outlining the problems with your estimate in
paragraph 2, but it seems like it got deleted.  I'll just post a link to
the salary schedule to correct your misperceptions.

In short, the only 10th year teacher that can earn your 48k is one with
a Master's and National Board Certification (a small percentage).  Very
few 5th year teachers even earn 40k, including supplement.  

And everyone these days is earning much less than what is shown in the salary schedule, because nobody has
gotten raises in 5 years.  That means 6th year teachers are earning the same as 1st year
teachers (which is the 34k and change quoted by James).

So yes, teachers really do earn that little, even for being 10-month
employees.  I should know, I am one (in my 4th year).  Without a Master's, I can hope to earn that 48k you use as your example. . . in about 15 years.

Here's the link:  http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/docs/fbs/finance/salary/schedules/2013-14sche... 

wmjehall's picture

Teachers are leaving the

Teachers are leaving the district for better opportunities elsewhere. I would urge you to visit Pay Our Teachers First and listen to their stories. Listen to Billie Lanigan talk about trying to make ends meet as a single mom on a teacher's salary (hint: she can't and has to have a second job). Listen to Ashley Risinger talk about her painful decision to move back to Indiana.I agree with James - no matter the number, asking our professional teachers to take on second jobs to make ends meet does not in any way constitute a "living wage." And according to the Living Wage Calculator from MIT, the minimum salary needed (before taxes) for a 1 adult, 1 child household in Orange County is $41,361. Add a second kid and that jumps to $51,188.http://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/37135  

Address teacher pay with subsidized housing

While I support any and all measures to raise teacher pay, I realize that it might not be viable over the long term. One thing Chapel Hill/Carrboro could do, however, is provide for subsidized teacher housing for those teachers who are in their first decade of service (so, making below $50K/year). In Baltimore, they built this project: http://millerscourt.com/apartments/ in a neighborhood that needed help, and everyone won—the neighborhood is thriving, and teachers still live there. While we often think of affordable housing efforts as helping only those at the bottom, providing a smaller subsidy for lower-middle-class folks (in the context of Chapel Hill, where the average family income is over $100K) would help the town attract new teachers without overburdening apartment developers.  

Letter from PTA Council

This email was sent out after last night's budget work session between the county commissioners and the school systems.

From: CHCCS PTA Council <chcptacouncil@gmail.com>Date: June 6, 2014 at 7:18:29 AM EDTTo: undisclosed-recipients:;Subject: [ptacouncil] Disappointed

Good morning everyone.I wish I was writing with better news.The budget work session for the BoCC last night was, to put it directly, a hot mess.The bottom line is that there seems to be very little appetite at the BoCC for a revenue increase. What is more upsetting is that the commissioners seem to be prepared to blame other factors (Raleigh and - bizarrely - the CHCCS school board) for what looks like a very likely failure to fully fund the CHCCS and Orange County Schools budget requests. Here is a sample of what was said during the discussion:Barry Jacobs stated that the BoCC could help "fill a hole, not a crater."Mark Dorosin stated categorically that he would not support ANY increase to the special district tax for CHCCS. Penny Rich said that it was time to embrace that fiscal austerity was the new normal and not continue year to year fixes.Barry Jacobs, Earl McKee and Mark Dorosin all then took turns criticizing CHCCS for not providing the BoCC with a prioritized list of potential cuts, so that they knew what their money would go to. [This seems to fly directly in the face of what we were told at the open hearing when the BoCC reminded us that it did NOT decide how the school board spent the money. Now it seems they want to get directly in the weeds of knowing what our district spends where so they can make budget decisions. Hope that they are putting ALL county agencies under the same microscope.]Finally, there were some very public swipes at the CHCCS Board of Education.Earl McKee said that the board had been "overly aggressive" in its budget request and should have known better how the game was played. Mark Dorosin said that the school board submitted "wants" and not "needs."Finally, Commissioner Jacobs said that parents would probably be severely dissatisfied with the budget, but that the CHCCS school board had led them there with its behavior.All in all it was dumbfounding, shocking, and sobering. One longtime staff participant in the process said that in 15 years of budget hearings, she had never seen anything like it, or witnessed behavior like that from the BoCC.ALL PARENTS NEED TO BE PREPARED FOR A COUPLE OF HARD TRUTHS:1. We will have a huge budget hole in CHCCS next year.If the BoCC fails to fully fund (looks very likely), and if the Senate budget (or something similar) passes, our district will have a $6 MILLION budget hole next year. This will fundamentally change education in CHCCS. 2. Everyone will share the pain.This isn't the time for the annual CHCCS Parent Hunger Games - where we all fight with one another on what will be funded or what won't be. Mandarin immersion, theater techs, gifted specialists - IT IS ALL AT RISK. Fighting among ourselves is a bit like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We are all sinking, what difference does it matter where our seats are?Please understand what a $6M deficit potentially means. Elementary class size pushed to 30+. Elimination of special programs. Another round of cuts to athletics. Teacher assistants all but eliminated from our schools in all areas. Capital improvements for our older buildings again delayed and under-funded. Staff lay-offs. Consequences equally severe but unforeseen.Education as we have historically understood it in Chapel Hill and Carrboro is about to change in unimaginable ways.PLEASE share this with all of your parent groups. Special needs parents, gifted parents, dual language parents, arts parents, sports parents. We aren't our interest group anymore.We are just parents. And we need to stick together. To do what exactly I don't know right now. I am open to suggestions.Jeff Hall

PTA Council President 

wmjehall's picture

This was sent out today:

Good morning everyone,
First, let me start by saying thank you to all of you. Your concern for education, teachers and students in our schools has been remarkable. From the turnout at the budget hearing to the engagement in Raleigh, you have reflected the true and historic values of local support for kids and education. You are making a difference. Please know that.
The truth is that our county commissioners have been dealt a terrible hand. They must balance competing local priorities and retrenchment in Raleigh. I absolutely believe that they are all highly capable, dedicated public servants who truly want the best thing for all Orange County citizens. I truly believe that they want to do everything that they can for public education.
I am equally convinced that, despite our efforts, the county commissioners do not fully realize the extent and depth of the frustration, anger and fear that we as parents are feeling.
With that said, I suggest the following steps. It is important to point out that these are my recommendations as an individual who happens to be head of the PTA Council - they are informed by my work in that position but in no way represent the common work of that group and do not necessarily reflect the will of every CHCCS PTA unit or member. These ideas are presented for information and as a resource and encouragement. Please use, edit or adjust as you see fit. Also feel free to disregard. That said:
1. Ask the commissioners to fully fund schools in Orange County.
We aren't asking for anything new. Our expectation remains unchanged. Point out that the Board of County Commissioners is our last best hope to undo the damage done by Raleigh, recession and retreat from public education. They have the power to change the discussion locally if they will fully fund our schools. With this power will come renewal in hope and faith for our teachers (who so desperately need it), our parents and our students. This is a critical time for education in our state. I would venture that many of you (based on your calls and emails) have at least considered - however briefly - relocating to another community or state in the last 24-48 hours. Did you ever think we would be here? Now is the time for our commissioners to step up and fully fund schools. Ask if they will agree to do everything in their power to fully fund both school systems' budget requests.
2. Do not allow commissioners to shift focus.
The constraints from Raleigh are real. Fund our schools. You may disagree with the CHCCS or Orange County School boards. Fund our schools. There are other needs that are important to our community. But fund our schools. This is the expectation of the parents in our community. We are not being unreasonable. We know that there are constraints. But we also believe that the value and growth in our community is driven primarily by its schools. To not fully fund them puts us all at risk. 80% of the county budget is derived from property taxes. Those property taxes are paid primarily by parents who value education. If those parents leave, property values drop, and so does revenue for the county. If our schools are not the best they can be, then from where will the funds come to support social services, affordable housing initiatives or support for seniors? For many seniors, the most valuable asset they own is their home. They are as invested as we are in ensuring quality schools. ALL of the county's initiatives are valuable and deserving of support. But the framework that supports them is built on the foundation of our community's commitment to education. We are asking for full funding for education to make our community better for every family, senior and business owner. All citizens benefit from full school funding.
3. Remind the BoCC that there are consequences that come with failure to fund schools.
Failure to fully fund schools will cost people jobs. It will harm kids. Parents, teachers and businesses will leave the community. We will all be worse off than we are today. As pointed out above, it puts the financial stability of our county at risk by jeopardizing property values. And parents will remember. If you are so inclined and willing to do so, point out that it will change your vote the next time the commissioner in question stands for election, or point out that it is OUR money we are asking them to spend - not theirs.
Be passionate. Be honest. Be positive.
Understand that what we are asking them to do is very difficult, and know that we are all on the same side and want the same thing - a thriving, educated and successful Orange County. But let them know that you believe that starts with strong and fully funded schools. Let them know that there will be a reckoning for the choices they make.
In the end (and unlike me in this message), keep it simple.
Fund our schools.
I leave it to the judgement of individual schools, groups and parents to determine the best means, place and time to deliver this message. I will caution that sooner is better than later. Keep the calls and emails coming. It is having an effect.
In her last email to me yesterday, Commissioner Rich (who I voted for enthusiastically and think is an honorable public servant), said, very simply "I am listening." I thank her for that, and thank all of the commissioners for their dedicated service to our community.
Please share with your schools and groups and with all Orange County citizens invested in quality schools.
Thank you all, and good luck.
Jeff Hall
PTA Council President

ldhintz's picture

Funding schools

I am surprised and saddened that the County Board was not willing to raise taxes to fund the CHCCS and Orange County schools to the level needed. When all three boards met together earlier in the spring I thought there was a willingness to increase the county spending on schools.Loren