Op-Ed: Make Every Week Teacher Appreciation Week By Paying North Carolina Teachers More

By Governor Roy Cooper

North Carolina’s amazing educators are preparing the future workforce of our state every day. It’s past time we treat them like the professionals they are with higher pay and more support.

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and I was grateful to celebrate our teachers by visiting multiple public schools across the state to see the wonderful things happening in classrooms from tough math lessons to expressive dance courses. After declaring 2024 as “The Year of Public Schools” in North Carolina, I’ve visited 18 public schools from Hall Fletcher Elementary School in Asheville to East Carteret High School in Beaufort and have seen just how hard our teachers work to set their students up for success.

We need to support our educators every week of the year – and that starts with making meaningful investments in teacher pay.

I know firsthand the work that our teachers put in. I was raised by a public school teacher — my mom, Beverly Cooper. She believed that every student had promise for success and she worked hard to teach and guide them. My mom, like public school teachers across our state then and now, worked early mornings, late nights and weekends preparing for class and finding new ways to help her students learn.

Our educators go above and beyond to make sure our schools are safe spaces for children to learn and grow, where they meet different people and find opportunities to succeed. And they do a great job of it too!

There are amazing things happening in our public schools where more than 8 out of 10 North Carolina students go. We’re seeing the highest graduation rates in our state’s history – 87% in 2023. And North Carolina students earn hundreds of thousands of quality workforce credentials each year that lead to good paying jobs – that all starts with our world-class educators.

But time and time again, the legislature has failed to step up and pay them like the professionals they are. Far too often, our teachers and public schools are forced to do more with less. North Carolina has dropped to 38th in the country in teacher pay. We rank near the bottom for public school funding –nearly $5,000 less per student than the national average. That’s unacceptable.

I put forward a strong, balanced budget that would change that – my proposal would invest more than $1 billion in public schools, give teachers an overall 8.5% raise plus a $1,500 retention bonus and lift North Carolina to first in the Southeast in beginning teacher pay.

But instead of raising teacher pay and investing in our public schools, the top priority for Republican legislators is funneling billions more in taxpayer money to private school vouchers for the wealthy with $625 million diverted from public schools for this purpose for the next school year alone.

That’s shockingly irresponsible. That’s why my Democratic colleagues in the legislature have introduced a new bill that would call for a moratorium on taxpayer-funded private school vouchers until our public schools are fully funded.

Our legislature has a decision to make. They can raise teacher pay, fully fund our public schools and strengthen early childhood education. Or they can take billions in taxpayer money from our public schools to pay for vouchers at private schools that don’t have to answer to the taxpayers.

Legislators must make the right choice for the future of our state.

Following Teacher Appreciation Week, I ask North Carolinians to join me in urging our legislators to step up – don’t just tell educators we appreciate them. Show them.

15 COMMENTS

  1. I support merit based raises.

    No proficiency, no raises.

    Proficiency + growth = raise.

    Y’all can’t be out here demanding more money and the kids are failing

    • Same old same old. The state took that away years ago. Every teacher at every school used to get EOG bonuses. You can’t get and retain quality educators by paying them peanuts.

  2. So Brett, I’m a Special Ed teacher. It will be rare that my students with learning disabilities make growth. Are you saying that I don’t deserve a raise?

    Not to mention, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed (I’m sure you haven’t been in the classroom to take the time to observe what a teacher has to deal with), but kids don’t care these days. Bad behavior is at an all time high, apathy is rampant and they do not care what their grades are and are too consumed with their phones to do work. You can’t help a student that REFUSES to help himself – but that certainly doesn’t stop us from trying.

    What kind of work do you do? Do you get raises based on proficiency?

    • Thank you for the work you do for our special population. You should absolutely be recognized with a raise, as should all state employees (I’m one myself). We are not compensated fairly, first of all, but second of all we don’t receive cost-of-living increases. The work our teachers do for our students goes unnoticed and unappreciated, especially here in the JoCo Report comments. Please know that not everyone feels the same way as the frequent commenters.

    • Indeed. You’re vocation is the outlier, as you’ve stated. So let me ask you a hard question: If you’re students are making zero growth, and do not possess any resemblance of proficiency, what is the purpose of your job other than state funded daycare?

      However, I don’t believe that it is “rare” for spec ed kids to make growth. My wife taught spec ed in Wake County for a number of years, and she’s got more than several success stories as far as growth is concerned. She did this by employing individualized strategies for each child, despite administration telling her to do nearly the opposite. This is the real spirit of “equity” that is truly beneficial in a classroom setting.

      Maybe for spec ed teachers, growth is an appropriate metric for merit-based raises, but if you have low expectations, then you’ll get what you put in.

      As far as the bad behaviors, we can thank single moms for that (and our government having entitlement programs that incentivized the destruction of the nuclear family, and replacing fathers with Uncle Sam). I was raised by one, so I know well that fathers in homes are necessary for well behaved children.

      None of these children have any fear or accountability because proper discipline is now dead.

      Put God back in schools and fathers back in homes and this problem corrects itself once that’s done.

      • You do realize (since your wife taught special ed) that it ranges from severely disabled to highly gifted. One must ask which one your wife taught since she had so many success stories. Also, do you believe the appropriate way to measure growth is with a standardized test? How about the students that are mentally challenged with an IQ of a 3 year old. Yes, we have those in high school. Did you know that their scores count for our school report card? When the stakeholders allow other ways to show proficiency, that’s when we will see a difference.

        I, too have accomplishments and success stories. Leading with the Heart, Flame for Learning, local chamber teacher of the year, etc. I didn’t get those for just sitting around doing nothing. It still doesn’t change the fact that most students could care less about scores and rush through just clicking answers – welp, there’s goes any chance I have of a student demonstrating growth unless he got lucky while guessing because he certainly isn’t taking his time to read and answer appropriately.

        When did your wife leave education? I can guarantee you that the students we have today are not the types of students we had 3 years ago.

        By the way – your other response: Should a teacher make more than a police officer? Well, again, there are many parameters. Where does this police officer work – is he in a sleepy town like Four Oaks or is he in a crime-ridden area like Durham? Should those officers get paid the same? I don’t think so. Research for yourself the wages of such officers and see if you agree. How long does it take to become a police officer? Months? I have a Master’s Degree so I have spent years preparing for my job. Teachers see danger every day (assaults, drug overdoses, etc). Don’t take that lightly.

        I used to work in public health. I know all too well what happens with police, fire, ems. I was one of them. EMS = Earn Money Sleeping. Yep, a slow night was spent binging on Netflix and naps.

        All I’m saying is that teachers are valuable (we are losing good teachers every day). Police are valuable – we can’t have normalcy without them. But they aren’t to be compared.

        • Its apparent Brett is one of those who will simply make up excuses as to why teachers should never get paid a decent wage. How does one measure “growth” with unmotivated kids? With gym teachers? With art teachers? With Social Studies teachers? With music teachers? With Chorus teachers? Its all been tried before and it always turns out that teachers in high poverty areas always come out as terrible teachers as tests test kids, not teachers.

          • Exactly! People on the outside can have a whole lot to say because they THINK they know what’s happening on the inside. Common words at exam time “I’m passing this class so I don’t care what I make on that exam.” Or “who cares, I’m failing anyway.”

            But yet, I’m to be judged by how well they test? It’s one of the biggest injustices teachers face.

    • Sarcasm? It’s 2024…I have to ask. Some people actually think this is okay because they’re economically ignorant.

  3. Teaching is a part time job they a week off at Easter two weeks at Christmas and two months off in the summer and still make more than government worker that work all year I’m tired of hearing it and they get off every holiday

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