Master's cuts cause major problems
BY ELEANOR LEWIS ON SEPTEMBER 20, 2013
Only nine months away from graduation, NC teachers working towards master’s degrees came close to losing a ten percent salary increase.
“The law states that if you do not have your master’s degree by April 1, 2014, you will no longer be given master’s pay,” math teacher Tim Dameron said.
Master’s pay is a bonus given to teachers who have earned master’s degrees. Governor Pat McCrory signed the budget restricting master’s pay in late summer, prompting discontent in the education community. This affects any teachers planning on getting master’s degrees in the future, but also teachers currently working on degrees like Dameron and science teacher Jed Smith.
“[State legislators] are going to try to sell it to [educators] by saying that it will raise standards and that more schools will want teachers with master’s,” intern Amanda Sugg said. “But really it’s going to discourage some teachers from teaching in NC, it’s going to discourage teachers from getting master’s and it’s going to decrease the quality of teachers in NC.”
Sugg is among those who could be affected by the new law. If she were to get her master’s degree then pursue teaching in NC, she would not be eligible for the pay raise. The effect of these changes could be far reaching.
“The immediate effect for teachers like Dameron and myself is that it may take us out of the classroom, if we can’t get our master’s done in time,” Smith said. “It may take us into administration or to community colleges that hire people with a master’s degree; we’ve invested into it, we’d like to get paid back.”
Many teachers working on master’s, or planning on eventually getting master’s, have been teaching for ten or fifteen years. If they have to leave the classroom, the education system would lose some of the most experienced teachers.
“Losing people like that out of schools would negatively affect the level of instruction the kids are getting,” Smith said.
Outside of the classroom these cuts will affect the community.
“At the college level, all of the universities who have master’s programs geared towards teachers furthering their education are basically killed,” Smith said.
This loss could harm the economy, cause further budget problems for the state and is already causing problems in our community.
Smith said he was told by a contact at ECU that the university had a set of almost 100 candidates who had agreed in May to join the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. After the NC assembly announced the cut of master’s pay, the MAT program lost many participants.
The budget is very long and complex, causing problems for the teachers it affects, and the clause regarding master’s pay is not widely understood.
“You basically had to know someone who had studied the bill to even understand what was going on,” Dameron said.
Most of the Rose administration is unaware of the potential effect of the cuts.
“If you are not affected by it you don't really worry about it,” Dameron said.
While the law has caused problems, teachers are optimistic.
“The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) asked the state legislators to extend the cut-off date so that teachers graduating in 2014 would be included,” Smith said. “The governor agreed to allow people working on their master’s now to be grandfathered in to the pay raises.”
While the details are not clearly defined and this will not solve every problem created, it should benefit Dameron and Smith. The state seems to be working toward more solutions.
“I heard a sound bite of governor McCrory that said that they were beginning some form of teacher board that would have teachers from varying levels in the state to discuss decisions that would affect the budget.” Smith said. “I think this is a great idea.”
Teachers have had a limited voice in the past and this board could help the state make the best decisions possible for education in NC.
“Ultimately it is the taxpayers of NC who make the decisions of how the money will be spent,” Smith said. “If the taxpayers don’t like how this went, they need to make their voices heard in November when they elect people to the General Assembly.”