‘Pay cuts hurt’: North Carolina teacher shares her story


Rachel Kosher is a high school teacher at South Caldwell High School in North Carolina. Her state ranks 46th in the nation for average public school teacher salaries.

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The professionals that play such an important role in the lives of students are feeling the brunt of budget cuts. Stories of educators living in poverty are becoming increasingly commonplace, and Kosher is no exception. This is her story:

Pay cuts and pay freezes hurt mentally – mentally, physically, emotionally, financially, they hurt.

Six years ago as a first-year teacher in Georgia, I made $31,000 a year. I took a pay cut when I moved to North Carolina and took a job teaching at South Caldwell High School. I not only made several thousand dollars less per year, I also had to deal with higher insurance costs. I thought the next year might yield a higher salary, but that same year the pay freeze was announced. I was stuck making nearly $3,000 less each year than I had when I first began.

The low pay continued to affect my family as we struggled to afford food and pay medical bills. Even though I was working 50 hours a week and had medical insurance, I could not afford the co-pays for my doctor’s office visits during my pregnancy. Medicaid pregnancy had to cover my prenatal medical costs. Our dependence on the system extended to my children’s medical insurance and our eligibility for WIC (Women, Infants and Children Food Service). My husband applied at every Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and fast food place within a 30-minute radius, but every place was on a hiring freeze. We longed for independence, but we could not support ourselves, even with my full-time job.

The PTA made the teachers a breakfast one day. There were bananas, grapes, apples, oranges, and muffins. I filled my plate with fruit and brought it home. I felt relief and shame because my then-toddler son hadn’t eaten fruit in days and plowed through the banana with both fists. I couldn’t even remember the last time we’d been able to afford grapes.

The pay freeze dragged from one year to the next. Even though I became a better, more effective teacher each year, even though I took on additional responsibilities and duties, even though I advanced my career, my pay stayed put. The year the pay freeze “ended” brought no joy because the increased cost of benefits outweighed the small increase I received.

Rachel Koser with her family.

Last year, my husband worked nights and I worked days because we could not afford day care for our two children. We were together as a family two nights a week. We qualified for an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) food card, which supplied our family of four with $157 a month to buy food. We ate from our garden and used the food stamps to buy beans, rice, fruit, and dairy. I chopped firewood. My kids learned how to gather kindling. My husband hunted for meat.

A position for a special education teacher became available at my school, and my husband jumped on the opportunity. Although he has five years of military experience and four years of college, he was not hired. He applied for other positions in the school system, including custodian. Several months later he finally found a job with a cable company. Now he makes four times what the teaching position would have paid. It seems surreal that we can finally buy things that were formerly only luxuries — meat, new shoes, toys for our kids and extra supplies for my students who are in the same boat I was in once. He works fewer hours, has better benefits, and is allowed more flexible hours than me.

If my husband had been hired at my school, our combined salaries would barely disqualify us from the EBT food card. Our children would still be on Medicaid and WIC. Because he chose a different profession, his most recent monthly commission was five figures.

It’s hard to believe that a first-world country, one of the most powerful and influential nations in the world, treats its teachers this way. My profession has lost its prestige and respect. We are the soldiers of education, but are blamed instead of saluted. Every year the nation demands more from its teachers and offers nothing in return.

It is within the power of our nation’s leaders to restore the value of teaching. Offering quality pay and benefits will attract high-quality individuals to the profession and help retain them. Providing funding for schools will ensure that we can offer programs to ensure that students receive quality instruction and teachers receive necessary training and support.

The pain of education cuts is very real. Good teachers will cease to exist if the profession brings with it a life of poverty and blame.

Reader Comments

  1. Rachel,

    Why would you think that military service and a general four year degree would qualify your husband for a job teaching special education? Was his degree in special education? Did he have the training and experience that this job requires? It is very insulting for you to assume that we special ed teachers do not have to meet professional standards and have the same education and credentials as general ed teachers.

    I agree it is very disheartening to know that you take pay cuts when you move districts but perhaps you might also consider holding off on having a child until you are able to provide comfortably for yourself. I know that is not a popular opinion but complaining online and not understanding the requirements for special ed teachers makes me think you are not very well informed about many things.

    I have moved from one state to another and am fed up with taking pay cuts and having to retake the same old assessments every time I start over but that is just one reality of moving from one state/district to the next.

    1. I agree, unless your husband has a special Ed degree there is no question as to why he was passed over. Regarding the military service, unless he got a special Ed degree through the military that has no bearing.

      Before I state my next few points, I’d like it to be known that I am a teacher and I lived in a state that paid worse than North Carolina. I understand low pay.

      However, Barring job loss on the part of Rachel and her husband, that forced them to relocate to North Carolina, this situation is the result of poor choices. Why did you go to a low paying state? Did you not research cost of living and salaries? Why did you have another child? A

  2. With all the education many of you teachers have, why is it that you don’t understand tax payers? You go into a job that your salary is paid by people who are poor, middle class and rich depending on where you live. You are paid with no increase for many reasons. 1. If the economy is bad well then that means you can’t receive more money if tax payers are not doing well either. I mean that’s like trying to get blood from a turnip, and laughable to hear a supposedly educated person complain about wanting an increase in pay during hard times when being paid by tax payers. 2. Many of these same tax payers also pay your pensions for many years after you are retired as well as paying the salaries for all current teachers. Pensions might I add that are 50% – 75% of your salery depending on where you live and the demographics. Just a side note, many big companies have done away with pensions because the company cannot keep paying their employees and retirees and stay in business, and employies have to pay into their own retirement. 3. You will not see an increase with these two things that I just stated above with any company if they want to stay in business.
    My issue with the complaining is that if you know and understand why you won’t receive and increase in pay then no matter how much you love teaching your complaints fall on deaf ears. No matter how much you love children and want them to have the top of the line education, it’s not going to happen because no teacher will ever make a salary that a family of four could live off of with a stay at home spouse while more than half of the tax payers are struggling themselves. It is that plain and that simple.

  3. So the jist of this is my husband and I shouldn’t relocate to WNC. We currently live in South Florida and I am a teacher. He is currently unemployed. We were considering moving up there be near family because we thought his job prospects might be better. But it sounds like the teaching situation would only make our situation worse not improve it even if he had a job.

  4. As a teacher, I agree that the teacher wages do need to increase. In most states it is not worth it to be a teacher if you are single or both you and your spouse are teachers as the pay is that dismal. There needs to be a nationwide movement o increase teacher salaries. I have seen people in certain states who unfortunately are content to make the low wages because it means they are able to stay in the state they have a blind loyalty to. This kind of mentality will ensure that we continue to make low wages.

    That being said, this article does not do a good job for this cause. My question is, why did she move to North Carolina if the pay was lower than Georgia? Why did she move there if her husband did not have a job and hers was going to pay lower? Why did she have ANOTHER child when she already couldn’t afford the first one? I can’t feel sorry for her in these regards.

  5. Oops, looks like you should have gotten birth control instead of having kids until you could afford them. Oh, that’s right, let me go on the system because I want to have kids. Guess what honey, you one one of millions doing this & we have run out of money, but it’s all about you.

    1. What an ignorant response. Everyone has the right to have children, and two children for two professional people is completely reasonable. In theory, they should be able to afford them. North Carolina should be ashamed of how little they value their teachers, and by extension, the education of NC’s children.

    2. Ok, first birth control is NOT always affective.
      Sec. She’s trying to make a point not make you feel sorry for her. She’s trying to show people what it’s like to be a Teacher now a days. And so? If she had anothe child? What if she had a kid as a teenager and she still went to college and she still lives the way she was living befor collage? Then would you care? Probably not.

  6. I am definitely sympathetic to your situation because I live it, too, with a few exceptions. I have put off having children because I know that I simply could not afford them with my teaching salary, even with my Masters degree. Getting back into the public school system was necessary because it was the only job that interviewed me after submitting over 40 applications, resumes, and emails. The current situation in our country will not get better when we continue to cut education, which includes teacher’s pay. And it won’t because no one is willing to put their money where their mouth is. Politicians are all talk when it comes to education, and I believe most people know this.

    1. I feel all of your pain. I used to work in the corporate world. If I needed more training the company provided it, while paying me. If my company needed me to work longer hours or assumed more duties, I was compensated and promoted. I left the corporate world because I felt, and still do, that education is vital to our society. I never expected to become rich, but I did think that with care I could afford to live. I work at least 60 hours a week. My duties increase yearly. My small, infrequent pay increases do not even get close to covering my increases in insurance premiums. I work in one of the best schools in N.C. and two of the teachers on my grade level have lost their modest houses to foreclosure in the past two years. I love my school, my collegues, and my students. When my children ask about the field of education, especially in places like N. C. I have to say, “Please, go into another field. ” Sadly, and ironically, unless things change, there is no future in education.

  7. I have a master’s degree and have been teaching in NC for 8 years. When my wife and I married in 2009, we were able to get by, barely. When she worked full-time we were comfortable, slowly but surely making progress on our combined 60K in student loans. When we had our son this past spring, suddenly we’re paying $800 a month (including summer months escroe) for state health insurance. We have always been determined to home school and for my wife to be a stay at home mom who supplements our income working part-time from home. So, after taxes and health insurance premiums, I bring home roughly $1,900 a month. Oh wait…then take out the summer fund which, to equal a comparable check during the 2 summer months, is about $400 from each pay period during the school year. That means I have $1,500 per month to support my family…with a master’s degree. As you can imagine, I’m working 40+ hours at a summer job trying to supplement.

  8. The State (of NC) contributes a sum equal to 15% of your salary into a retirement account for you. No private company does any such thing anymore. The rest of us have to put money into a 401k for retirement and employers rarely match contributions now. You pay only $22 per month towards your health insurance premium while the rest of us pay at least a few hundred dollars for the 80/20 same coverage. The State, as I understand it, pays your 7.2% Medicare/Medicaid contribution that the rest of us are required by law to pay the IRS. You can bank your sick time and cash in up to 2 years worth later. NO other organization does this. What else? Oh yeah, you DO have 3-4 months off each year while the rest of us have only 2-3 weeks off. All things considered, teachers need to stop griping. I have 2 weeks off each year, pay $250 per month for health insurance, am the sole contributor to my retirement account, and don’t get sick days (I have to use PTO days). That is the norm. And I also work overtime when needed. Teachers need to stop complaining. Stop playing the over-used “It’s for the children” card. You don’t have it as bad as you’d like us to believe. Funny that none of you cite the commissioned study done 2-3 years ago indicating that when all these benefits are taken into account, you, NC teachers, are actually paid $4k MORE per year than the national average.

    1. Furthermore, if you were at a private company, you would NOT automatically get a pay increase every year. You would be evaluated and only if you had taken on additional responsibilities or initiative would you get a pay increase. You complain that you have only received a 2% increase in the last 5 years. I’ve only gotten a 3% increase. So what? We were in the midst of a recession. Be glad you had a job at all. Do you think that any one in the private sector made out any better? In the private sector, you’d have to do more than “meets expectations” to get an increase or a promotion. They need to finally start expecting the same out of educators. Those who stand out and who exceed expectations will be rewarded.

      1. As graduates in the educational field starting at community college, I chose not to teach due to students behavior. My husband has taught 17 years in 2 states and areas…North and South…knowing the difference between union and a “right to work state.” We had to move away from our families and home for him to pursue culinary school to be hired to teach 350 miles from home in our early 30’s. His 2 degrees, master’s, culinary school, teaching awards with no pay incentives, always working 2 full time jobs (teaching and low hourly restaurant pay 16 years), being a triple national American Culinary Federation member (no pay increase for that either), re-newing certifications and teaching license every 5 years with no extra pay for them but paying those dues and paying own education for teacher license renewal, all these constant “change ups” demanded by school districts expect teachers to change their entire curriculum about every 2 years because it’s the “teachers fault” their kids are not all super stars at school, works on school work after his 2nd job nightly, works full time all summer cooking for $10.50 an hour and teacher planning for the next school year every summer night and weekends, $1000 yearly gross raises taken away by increased medicare costs and tax increases, has to be evaluated every 2 – 3 years by a team called “ADEPT” where teachers go through months of writing and observation by this “ADEPT” team who may not like a teacher or want to fail that teacher out because their students become regional and state and national winners receiving scholarships (teacher not paid for those days and times away on weekends and summers), has to shop grocery stores for class food products without pay and no gasoline or mileage reimbursement, is given such a small budget for food products for students class culinary activities to the point of students bringing in their own supplies from home and his begging stores and local farmers to give eggs and chicken, has to go to “Donors Choose” to raise $5,000 – $17,000 with a catchy title asking people to donate to help his students have cooking equipment and to pay their gas bill, and we waited 14 years to have only 1 child with his/her own scholarships and who paid for his/her own education starting at the community college level. Where does that leave we parents in our 60’s? The latest in “educational experiments” is called “Core Curriculum” and “Race to the Top” which means a teacher could lose their current pay and years of service. Please look these up and and the real truth behind them. Once students move on to middle school and then high school, parents are less involved with their children. We have 50% or more blended families or no father figure in the home from divorce having mom work 2 jobs. There are more moms and children on drugs and alcohol, they can’t care for themselves properly from depression let alone children with neurological disabilities. Children come to school very tired and hungry in high school making it harder to learn. My husband had always wanted to make a difference in his students lives which he has done including many graduates from culinary school with titles making more that his own 17 years of teaching at Master’s Pay $48,000 GROSS income. Some students have their own restaurants; others are chefs for governors. Still others are the G.M.’s and Corporate food managers of a restaurant company my spouse trained at his 2nd job. One graduating student was over all food service personnel at age 20 in Afghanistan for thousands of soldiers who were speaking many languages. As a family, we suffered during the Great Recession for 6 years as all he could find was staying with the restaurant chain (refused taking higher paying unemployment checks to not look like he didn’t want to work and making his skills and age harder to be employed) making $9.00 an hour to $10.50 an hour working from his 11th-17th year! Restaurants wouldn’t hire him for management though he had years doing so, but his restaurant skills were rusty with more time working as a culinary teacher. It was said many a time by upper management “you have more education, experience, our fastest worker of all, and diversity than my 4 managers here; you are a threat to our futures!” Our only boy/girl just graduated with 2 college degrees and was in their last year of a university went into the health field still lives with us. That one believes for all the years of growing up that we should be paid for all we invested in his/her life. I became disabled 20 years ago not able to work on Social Security at $400 a month that IS taxable since my husband makes more than $35,000 a year. I’m not looking for government help or someone to feel sorry for me and mine. I want people out there to know teaching is NO free lunch! Trying to get out of it to a better and higher wage with a matching 401k (only worth $50,000 from my husband paying into it not connected to the stock market) for 17 years willing to move just about anywhere never happened nor having our own home again for 25 years with rent going up and paying utilities as the lowest but nicest in the area. Our credit was destroyed by one lost teaching job from 2 times in one “ADEPT” year being told by the head team leader “if you resign at the end of the school year, we’ll pass you, so you can go find another job; you are a threat to us with your students winning competitions every year for 10 years!” This treatment from food service and teaching is the real truth. Now tell me about the benefits of teaching or trying to leave? By the way, he is teaching…in poverty schools no one wants to work (2 places in 5 years as one shut down their programs). My husband has had to live 125 miles away for over 5 years coming home when he can for 1 or 2 days while still working that 2nd job there and home for 1/2 the summer to pay his expenses that is a blessing. I am no better than a military family or a military couple who waits for their spouse to come home after being gone several months to 2 years. Why should I complain as they can do it, and so can we being married almost 50 years! We’ll be together in 4 1/2 years which will go fast. I salute caring teachers who are willing to give all for their students. And I thank all military personnel for their service and many uncertainties in their lives and all these government changes affecting their lives. My husband and I have it better than they do which makes me humble for them all in what they do for others.

    2. You have to be kidding me! I would love to see you attempt this profession and get no appreciation! Each year it is demanded that we are more trained, work more hours, jump through more hoops. Each year insurance increases and our checks get smaller and smaller. Not to mention the student loans that teachers acquire in order for your child to receive a quality education. North Carolina is currently ranked 46 in pay and the test scores are quickly following closely behind at 43rd. Do you not see the correlation here, good teachers are leaving and will continue to do so if changes are not made. “It’s for the children” card?? Are you kidding? With test scores ranked 43rd in the nation, I’d say yes “It’s for the kids”. Children deserve the best teachers and education, if this continues those scores will quickly be ranked 50 out of 50. Is that what you would like for your child? You have no idea of the responsibilities of teachers and the behind the scenes dedication it takes. That post was just absolutely ridiculous and ignorant.

    3. You sound very bitter and I believe that is hilariously sad. How dare you ask teachers to stop complaining when it seems that you have NEVER been one. I have been on both sides of the fence: the corporate world and in education. I will say this, being a teacher in NC is for the birds!!! These 3-4 months off you speak of is not simply “vacation time”. Unless a teacher is a year-round teacher, they are not automatically paid during the summer AND many are REQUIRED to attend training during their “vacation”. Are you willing to attend work during your vacation for no pay? I didn’t think so. Those teachers who are not at a year-round school, who have set up summer accounts, have about a 300-500 cut PER PAY CHECK in order to cover expenses for the summer. Could you live with a 500 reduction from your paycheck each month? I didn’t think so. The commissioned study that you spoke of but also did not cite, (which you learned how to do from a teacher by the way) was 2-3 years ago. Seriously? The cost of a Coke isn’t what it was 2-3 years ago. The price of everything has increased while the value of education and the educator has decreased. I was in education as a single parent when the freeze in pay came about and for the first year, I toughed it out. The next year, the cost of benefits continued to increase, meaning more money was being taken out of my monthly check but, my income remained the same. Now any child knows that the more you subtract, the less you have remaining. The “contributions” you spoke of (Medicare/Medicaid) any other forms of public assistance are not available to teachers because according to the state, they make too much money. I’m sorry but if a beginning teacher brings home 1,800 (after deductions), pays all their required bills but only has 50.00 left for the month, I do not understand how they would not qualify for some type of assistance. Teachers also have performance evaluations but unlike in the corporate world, a teachers evaluation (and now pay) are tied to the hopes that a child will perform well on a test. Are you kidding me?!?! That would NEVER fly in the corporate world. Teachers are required to do more than just “meet expectations” just to KEEP their jobs and they will NOT receive any type of bonus. There are PLENTY of teachers who stand out, ,out perform and make their school look great but just like the bad teachers, beginning teachers or the struggling teachers, none of them receive any financial gain. No, most teachers did not enter the profession to become rich but all of them would love to be able to make a decent living. In the corporate world, the more training and education we receive, more doors for better placements open. It is not the case in NC education. Just recently, the state is considering NOT paying Master’s level teachers for their degrees. If a great teacher does not have a Master’s degree, what incentive do they have to pursue higher education and stay in the profession? None. As a trainer for major corporations, if I decide to return to college to receive my doctorate, my 65K salary will almost DOUBLE. A teacher’s salary will only go up about 350 bucks. Now let’s talk about fairness in pay. Don’t think that teachers are just complaining and being “bratty”. Their compensation is depressing and the educational structure of NC has declined significantly. I applaud all the teachers that remain in the profession for whatever reason. I also applaud those who don’t keep the “save the world” mentality and choose to save themselves and their families by getting out.

    4. Your message was interesting to read. You bring up some very valid points about teacher benefits. Having worked in the private sector myself, mainly in contract jobs, I found my pay tended to increase with my experience. I also worked unpaid overtime and paid into my own 401K account, so I can relate to the points you bring up.

      I wrote the article you criticize with the hope that I could convince a Congressman of the importance of education funding. The fact that my story went national blew me away. I welcome challenging opinions such as yours because every argument must have both sides presentation.

      I am currently working over the summer, which many people believe teachers “have off.” My school’s textbooks do not support our current curriculum, and even if they did, we have more students than books. For that reason, teachers are making our own curriculum maps, pacing guides, and thematic units. We are doing the job that previously belonged to textbook publishers while getting paid our same salary.

      I appreciated your comments as a whole because they draw attention to an important misunderstanding about the teaching profession. There is a misconception that teachers read a chapter, assign a worksheet, print off a test, then grade it with a conveniently provided answer key. Instead, we are collaborating, researching, and assembling relevant lessons, often times from scratch. Do you know how to teach students about using structure to produce bias in an article? Can you name seminal U.S. documents and explain how rhetorical devices contribute to their overall meaning? More importantly, can you teach a child with an IQ of 85 to do so?

      You are very right about over-used “it’s for the children” cards. I dislike reading sob stories about teachers. As I mentioned above, I wrote this article not to receive sympathy, but to beg for respect for my profession.

      Your valuable comments, however, make me think I should have focused my article more on the complexity of the profession rather than salary scales.

      I really did enjoy hearing your point of view–it’s refreshing to be challenged! Thank you for posting your comment. I’d welcome further replies any time.

      Keep up your commentaries! If nothing else, they give angry people something to vent about. 😉 For me, they are an encouraging source of perspective.

    5. For clarification purposes, we do NOT get 3-4 MONTHS off per year. School ended for teachers on June 11 and will begin sometime around August 19, We do get 1.5 weeks at Christmas and 1 week during April IF there aren’t any snow days. In addition, some of the teachers you are referencing work throughout the summer. Before passing judgement, it might help to actually learn the facts. After 6 years in the profession, I’m still making the 31k I made when I began my career. The numbers are disappointing considering many of us have hefty loans to pay back for the bachelor’s degrees we earned. Several friends I have owe 20k plus and I’m right there at it. So again, before passing judgement, learn the facts, Jack. Good day.

      1. The bottom line is, teachers salary is based off of 10 months of work, with 2-3 weeks off during those 10 months. If they feel they are underpaid, they have 2 months to work additional jobs to compensate. The rest of us work 12 months a year, and STILL only get 2-3 weeks off during that time. So I really don’t understand the reasoning behind teachers needing to make a 12/month salary for a 10/month job. Teaching isn’t easy, but neither are a lot of the jobs in Corporate America that come with a fraction of the time off.

        1. Are you speaking of 10 months of 40 hour weeks? 40 hour weeks do not exist in the teaching world. Neither do “summer’s off” because you are preparing for the next school year. Pre-planning and post-planning days have been cut to nothing. So when do you plan? Most weeks, I work a minimum of 50-55 hours to do the best job I can for my students. Would love to have hourly pay with overtime during the school year. Wouldn’t hear me complain. You are required to attend school events, sporting events, dances, etc. throughout the year as well (unpaid).

        2. Yes teachers work 10 months out of the year, but we work over 12 months in terms of working hours during that time. Plus the unpaid work that we have to attend to (professional development) during our unpaid summer months also contributes to the fact that we are underpaid.

          Just think about it. 52 weeks x 40 hours a week = 2080 hours compared to the fact most teachers work 60-80 hour weeks. So I will go with the low estimate of 60 hours a week. So that is 52 weeks – 8 weeks for summer = 44. So 44 x 60 = 2640…almost 600 hours more than a 12 month employee.

      2. You should have went to community college for your first 2 years of school towards your bachelors degree. I did, and my son did. I don’t feel sorry for anyone with STUDENT LOANS !!!
        Spend today and worry about it tomorrow, that is your philosophy. Don’t like your teacher’s salary, quit and get another job in the real world !!!

        We went 5 years without a raise and a pay cut. And we have no pension plan. But yet
        our tax dollars pay YOUR SALARY, so shut up and quit complaining !!!

        I say fire all of the complaining teachers, they are bad moral for our kids. When i was in
        school, we had no teacher assistants. You obviously need teachers that can teach without assistants !! Our tax dollars pay your salary. We are tired of school bonds, taxes, etc.

        That’s a fact Jack !!

        1. Correction: OUR tax dollars pay OUR salaries. You aren’t the only ones paying taxes. Teachers pay taxes as well, so technically, we pay our own salaries. THAT’S a fact, Jack.

        2. To ComplainComplain:
          Perhaps if you had “gone” not “had went” to a four year university, you would understand English grammar! I hope that your private sector employer sees your post and realizes that a moron was hired! All of the posts from teachers have been literate. Good luck and God bless you hardworking NC teachers.

    6. Why would someone choose their profession and then complain about it. Now if you started out making $100k a year and now you are paid $30k you’ve got a case.

      1. I am sure if this discussion board was up back when we started teaching, you wouldn’t hear so much. There are yearly cuts, increases in medical, dental, vision insurance and teaching insurance. With everything else going up…salary going down…you’d complain too.

      2. To all those discussing teaching salaries… Carl to answer your question. I’ve been teaching for 16 years. I didn’t get in it to complain .. I full well expected to be able to live off my earnings, most people do when they start a career. I started off making 28,000 a year and I now make 40, 000 with a masters. That’s sounds great huh? Well the cost of gas has increased from 99 cents to 350 since then that’s more than double correct? And yet my salary hasn’t. I have a friend who started the same year I did and now makes 85000 in another state. I could go on and on… About the 70 dollar co pay to see a specialist, the 240+20% I have to pay at the ER or the school supplies I have to purchase because the parents won’t buy it and the school can’t afford text books. They want 21st century learning and yet there’s no computers. They want to evaluate us on tests that are given once a year. One comment told us to stop whining. So hear this. My mother taught for 34 years, she put in her retirement and social security, she has Altzheimers to the point I had to place her in a home. She brings in 3300 a month, its cost 4000 a month to care for her( did I mention that was cheap dementia care), she still makes too much for Medicaid or other government assistance. That’s what I’ve seen our retirement do. I still have to supplement my retirement with an IRA just in case the same fate happens to me. So before you go off on teachers saying how we complain , get the whole story. It might enlighten those who say we complain.

    7. To Martha Riley:

      Citation you asked for (the study was done by the John Locke Foundation, who usually is very pro-teacher/pro-education):


      I am certain of your response, Oh, but the study was done in 2009 and things have changed since then. Given that inflation has been static and the overall COL has been static since 2009, it is still entirely valid and relevant, even now.

      1. Did someone really reference a study that claims the average NC teacher makes above $48,000 a year? If you look at the statewide NC teacher salary scale individuals with a bachelor’s degree would have to teach for 29 years just to make that much. If you have a master’s degree it would take 22 years to reach the state average. I don’t know about other school systems, but the number of teachers who have taught less than 20 years far outweighs the number who have taught more than twenty (about 8:1). Does anyone else see a problem with the figures in this study???

    8. As I read this, I am both, furious and laughing at the same time. If you think a teaching job is 40 hours a week and “summer off”, you are quite delusional. I have taught for 8 years. I can count the days on one hand that I didn’t work over 10 hours. We bring things home with us and plan during the summer months. I would say the majority of teachers do…for their students. Certainly not for the praise, fame, fortune and support of government and community. I pay $175.00 month for medical insurance. $250.00 is deducted for RETIREMENT from my check. I have a B.S. in Organizational Management, a M.S. in Special Education and an Ed.S in Instructional Leadership, for which I pay on school loans – $200.00 each month. State Austerity cuts have decreased our contracts by 8 days. That means no pay for 8 days. I would love for some of these people that say we complain to trade for a month. We get underpaid for 1 job that we do – TEACH, and not paid at all for the other jobs teaching comes with – nurse, counselor, stand-in parent, role model,etc. This is a job that at one point I would have done for free…but now, we are under such scrutiny and blame, it would be easier to run far away from this profession. I do this for my students, whom I love being with. But one can only take so much…

    9. The state pays 8.5%, we pay as teachers 6.5%. So get the facts before talking about something you don’t know. Also, my cousin is getting married so I have to take two personnel days at the cost of $50 a day. What company does that to its employees?

    10. I find it interesting when people compare teachers to normal uncollege educated workers to be a teacher you need to have a 4yr college degree. So yes they should be paid accordingly. Right now NC is the lowest paid average teachers in the entire USA (this is embarrassing that we value education so little)People also complain that teachers have 8-10 weeks “off” in the summer. Newsflash here teachers are only on a 10 month contract so during the summer they are not actually employed.

    11. We don’t get paid for that time during summer vacation and we are expected to use our own money and time for training in the summer. We have meetings, conferences, open houses during the summer. Do you work during your vacation? Not to mention we work way more than 40 hours a week If you divide how much money we make by hours–we are making a heck of a lot less than you do. We have to be at school for ballgames (all types of games), open houses, dodge ball tournaments, fundraising events, etc. Some of which are on Saturdays. If you have family insurance, it is now a little over $800 a month. I have individual insurance, but can’t afford the copay and deductible amounts–they are so high. We have not had a raise in 6 years. How about you? Yet prices keep going up on everything. Taxes, food, health costs, etc.

    12. This is a horrible way to compensate poor teachers. The reason we are paid peanuts is because it was a woman’s profession and has never risen above this ridiculous viewpoint. As long a male leaders are compensated for this horrible thing, as long as politicans have their way, we will be poor. I should like to see them pay their rent or mortgage with job satisfaction—-INDEED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I HAVE BEEN A TEACHER FOR 36 YEARS AND CAN TELL YOU THAT I WOULD NEVER HAVE GOTTEN THIS FAR IF I HAD NOT WORKED 2 JOBS ALL OF MY LIFE….IT IS PATHETIC!!!!

  9. These stories break my heart. I am realizing, as my district (in CA) is fighting for a pay raise (for the first time in 5 years) and, as my union (and I) are becoming more active, that it is past time for teachers to put the same blood and sweat into fighting for our right to equitable pay and benefits, as we do in fighting for the education of our students. Talk about “high stakes”, if we don’t rally and form coalitions though out the nation, both we and our students will be lost to the greed of the 1%.

    1. It does seem that since there are no “promotions” in this field, there must be a means to keeping the good teachers who are doing great work. I can’t be Colonel Teacher, but I can continue to be a motivated and successful one. If my issues are in the classroom, and not in my outside life, I can put all of my energy into the future of this country (and yes, I’m doing that now while I’m digging deep to keep it together at home).

    2. Kim — Kudos to you for staying active and involved in your union! We teachers in Wisconsin have lost our power to band together in support of our students and ourselves. The 1% has won in our state (for the time being). The sad part is that our educational leaders seem to be in a world apart from the rest of us. Despite their advanced degrees and experience it’s been enlightening to see how many have folded under the control of our current political regime. Experiences such as Ms. Kosher’s are all too real and too common with our educators these days and, unfortunately, we are losing good teachers in this process of cutbacks and freezes.

  10. I teach in Massachusetts and am finishing up my 7th year. I am biting the bullet and jumping to finish my master’s this summer. Sigh… I love my job. I love being a support behind my students making strides to improving their lives. I do have to say that their “thank you’s” don’t pay my bills. I can only speak to my state’s requirements of keeping up my credentials with no reimbursement. I know of NO other field that requires, REQUIRES, continual professional development/degrees/education, etc. to just keep a position. We are not considered employable or highly qualified unless we check off these items on the “to do” list. I am not talking about updating my knowledge of technology or political/district mandates, but additional courses to teach me how to teach. What does my degree mean in the first place? Personally, I see the data telling me that I am nailing it – my students are succeeding. They are mastering the required curriculum and completing their own “to do” list… so, what am I doing wrong that means I am required to spend an exorbitant amount of money to sometimes take regurgitated classes with a “graduate” status attached? Do we need to be sure that teachers are competent in their content area to keep up with the national movement to follow the Common Core? Sure. I agree on that, but I’m ok with using our district PD time for that… you know, in the company of the others in my field and district – vertical teaming, remember that concept? I am not bitter about my pay. I am bitter about the slams to this profession. I am 120 students’ parent, mentor, coach and drill sergeant for 180 days a year. The other days, I am their personal assistant, making sure that to give them what I promised to give them – a great educational experience with me – by planning, tweaking, and researching new and meaningful lessons and units for this year and the year to come. Teaching is not my job… it is my hobby, happy place and life. My state and my district can complain about their fiscal woes all they want, but they can’t also say that their students are their highest priority if they won’t make sure they are afforded the best education. Keep us in the classroom – experience is a gift and builds strong schools.

  11. Education was supposed to be the means to escape poverty. Why should teachers’ pay be frozen when everything else is going up? I wonder how close children of a teacher with 2 kids is to receiving free or reduced lunches? Thank the Lord for Mississippi we’re not last. I can relate to this story. I saw a school employee digging through a box of donated clothing in hopes of finding a coat or sweater for her child. Somebody needs to wake up in Washington and bring our jobs back home from abroad.

  12. My husband has been a teacher since 1975. He left the profession for about 12 years to pursue other interests, including teaching college, but returned about 20 years ago and has been in the classroom ever since. Even with his Masters degree, specialist certification, and 25 years of experience he only makes about $45,000 a year. With insurance payments and having money taken out for retirement and other things he brings home even less. Every month I pay the bills with his salary, and the money is GONE in 2 days. This time of year is especially difficult, because extra money is taken out to cover the cost of our insurance for four months in a row. Without my work we would be sunk. With the recession my business took a nose dive, just in time for our first child to enter college. We lived frugally but eventually went through the emergency fund, finally ending up having to borrow money just to get through every month. We have never had to do this so it really hurt. Now things are better but not good enough to pay back the money we owe. We have strongly recommended to our children that they avoid the education profession. There is no future in it, and there are other ways to serve society in a meaningful way that will not leave you broke. I was sharing this with a teacher friend who lives in Canada. She was very satisfied with her job, earning almost $80,000 a year with her medical costs taken care of. What a shame that we in the US are not so fortunate and short sighted politicians are in charge of our children’s futures.

  13. After 25+ years of teaching, caring for my mother on weekends, back surgery and then the loss of my son (only child) in December, 2012; I finally just threw in the towel and retired. I loved teaching and it was my calling. Now, in order to live, I will have to find another job. The government and the system has failed us horribly. North Carolina should be ashamed with its ivy league colleges, and rich history in education. We have better roads than schools. Road repairs and construction are more important to legislators than supplying schools and teachers with the resources necesssary for quality education and life.

    1. I agree. Many states should be ashamed of the cuts they have made to education. It forces local school boards to cut staff since that is the biggest expenditure and quickest way to “shave off dollars from the budget”. It is ridiculous. These children are the future and their needs are not being addressed.
      Simply put, government will either invest in education and these children on the front end, or use tax money to build more prisons. Each state (because it is public record) has to post salaries of state workers, including the education system, juvenile detention, and prisons. Imagine my shock and awe, when I saw that some Activities Directors, secretaries, etc. in the penal system made way more than teachers.

  14. After getting married in 2005 and with bright prospects, my wife and I, both educators, planned to have children. Our first daughter was born the summer of 2008. The yearly raises then were enough for us to live on and I was sure the financial difficulties we were experiencing while my wife finished her teaching degree would soon be a thing of the past.

    How wrong we were.

    The door to recovery from our financial problems was slammed shut once the economy cratered at the end of 2008 freezing our salaries and shattering our hopes for the future. After years of struggling to make ends meet, making the minimum payments on our debts, taking out loans with family members, borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, and trying desperately to supplement our income we finally admitted defeat and went through bankruptcy last December. It was a decision we had avoided but after struggling for 7 years trying to make it on our existing frozen income in an economy inflated by 7 years and hurricane Katrina’s effects on gasoline, it was the only way out. We may have had a home, two cars, two kids, and a dog but we were living in poverty.

    Now things are a little bit better. Bankruptcy is a new beginning (after your dreams have been crushed!) but we have a plan and we’re working our plan. We’re starting to be able to pay back our family and our truck payment will be over next February but my love for education has been crushed. If education requires my family to live in poverty, then it is no longer worthy of my devotion. Education has betrayed us and I have no choice but to abandon it. The situation in North Carolina should be a national disgrace. It’s certainly already become a national scandal.

  15. A teacher’s salary is not great, but it is manageable for most people. The salary is ideally meant to supplement a family’s income and not support it. Therein lies the problem for many teachers and their families.
    A second more important issue is the public perception of a teacher’s salary. The pay is not horrible, but the amount of work and time required to properly carry out the duties of a teacher are not balanced by the salary. The public is unaware of the workload of a good teacher and therefore cannot understand why a teacher would complain about a salary that doesn’t seem too out of balance with the rest of society. Everyone once attended school or their children now do, so they consider themselves knowledgeable on the subject. The chasm between what seems to be a reasonable salary to some and the salary a teacher receives after working excessive hours will exist. It is not that teachers are not paid well, they are not paid well for the amount of work they are required to do.
    By the way, as long as teachers are on salary, working conditions will only deteriorate. Management never has to pay a price when they attempt to improve education if a teacher is paid by salary. At least an hourly rate of pay would force the state and education leaders to determine what might get the most results for the money invested, instead of forcing teachers to try every new fad to improve education, increasing hours of work, for the same salary, with varied results….. see above for the outcome of this cycle.

    1. Your final paragraph suggests you think that eliminating salaries would be a good thing. I can tell you right now that would further imbalance the system. The problem isn’t primarily about money. The problem is with our lawmakers. Trying to improve education is simple: We know what the best practices are. Just look at Finland and South Korea. By every measure, their educational systems are functional and better and it’s easy to determine why they are successful. But in this country we have people in positions of power that are not unable to implement these changes…they are UNWILLING to do so. There are two potential solutions to this problem: Replace the lawmakers who are unwilling to make the needed changes with those that are OR return the power to make educational decisions to the local school systems. Not until one of those things happen will education recover and be able move forward again.

    2. What do you mean it’s “not great?” I also teach in NC. The only difference between my job’s pay and being a cashier at the local McDonalds is $300 and health insurance. And I would work fewer hours at McDonalds! I teach because it is my passion. That being said, teachers are being asked to do and provide more and more on so much less. I am not sure what this writer is referring to about the let up on the pay freeze… In WNC it has been frozen for over five years with no signs of changing. It’s heartbreaking… I times I feel helpless.

    3. I would love an hourly rate and to get paid for overtime. The amount of time I work in a school year would sustain me through the summer. I think you are right. There is a lot of do this, do that, do this…..but no guidance on priority and actually doing it themselves to see first hand how many hours it takes. It is all top priority and all has to be done. You’re just told to get it done.
      And if I hear one more time from higher ups that we should all be glad to at least have a job in the state the economy is in….I’m going to scream.

  16. Most teachers are aware of their potential for income before they accept a job. and none have accepted a teaching job because of the possibility awesome pay. Most live their lives in accordance to their income whether it be combined with a spouse or not. I’ve always known this to be called “living within one’s means”.

    People who live with low incomes are the ones who carry the most risk when the unexpected happens. An unplanned pregnancy, an illness or accident and the loss of a spouse or a spouse’s income are examples of unexpected events that can send any low income people into financial tailspins. If people haven’t had the means to save for such things they may have to get governmental help to survive and I believe they deserve it.

    Teachers in North Carolina are among those who are at risk of loosing it all when the unexpected happens because many are living on the edge of poverty now. When more and more is expected from professional educators by lawmakers who are unwilling to reciprocate in terms of salary or when the reciprocation is barely enough to cover increases in insurance or cost of living, it sends a negative message. The message it sends to me is that education and educators are not really as important to these people as they would have us believe.

    I have taught in North Carolina for 28 years. I know that there are students who are graduating from college entering other professional careers who will make more income in their first year than I make in a year now. I said in the beginning that I didn’t go into education with the expectation of awesome pay. I can guarantee that there are many who will not enter the field of education because they choose not to live on the edge. I hope that I am still around to see improvement in the way the state treats it’s professional educators. Maybe I’ll be able to afford a decent retirement then.

    1. Like you, I didn’t get into the teaching profession for the fame and fortune. But there were salary increases for higher degrees. I have a B.S., M.S. and an Ed.S. Then my pay started going backwards with “furlough days”. The finger pointing of blame towards teachers is unacceptable. We have people making decisions that change standards every few years, spend millions on books that are aligned and then dump the standards and go to something else. Now, we are the textbook writers too. They also increase class sizes to the point that it will impact student performance. Then point the finger to us….when it should be pointing right back to them.

  17. My wife and I are both teachers in NC where our step increases for experience has been frozen for 6 years. This has cost our family about 12,000.00 annually. My oldest son is now in college, and we have taken out loans in order to pay for his college costs. The money lost in step increases could have easily helped our college cost situation. My wife and I have taught now for 25 years, and with 3 children we live from month to month. We are happy to have jobs, but at the same time it would be nice to be appreciated a little.

    1. Why don’t the kids go to a community college & pay for it themselves? Then go to a four year state school & get loans for that? They should be working. Stop crying the blues about having to pay for your kids’ education. You chose to have the kids & you are choosing to put them through college. ALL YOUR CHOICES.

  18. First let me say I am grateful I have a job. It has took me 19 years to make a little over what this person is making and YES with a college degree! My husband lost his job 2 years ago and our only son came home from college so we would not be so far in debt! Our Son then joined the Army to get his education! My husband has been trying to get in the Nursing program with the waiting list so long he is now going on his 3rd year WE RECEIVED NO HELP whatsoever!!! NONE so to hear of people who have gotten help it makes my blood boil! Be grateful you have a job!! My son is know thousands of miles away trying to get his educations husband is studying all the time! Trust me when I say there is alot worse off people than us!! The elderly go without medicine or food alot! I have not gotten a raise either it is there area we live in! There are 1000’s of people wanting and willing to take your job. I am in the health field and you see all kinds of waste were our Medicaid program is. All you can do is grin and bare it. If people truly need it I am all for them getting help but the ones who can afford to go get their nails done streaks in their hair tattoos, pierces and such well I have a issue with that! Caldwell county has become a very poor area and no jobs are being created. It is all sad to me period!

  19. As a teacher with 29 1/2 years experience I long for the day when I can retire. Unfortunately, that isn’t happening anytime soon. I can’t pay the bills and continue to become more in debt. I work a second job, something I did before my daughter was born and something I am doing once again since my husband died. Instead of my salary increasing, which will help my retirement, it is decreasing. I make less this year than last, after the tax and health insurance increases.
    It saddens me to tell my daughter to avoid a career in education, but it is the truth. Money isn’t everything, but it is necessary to pay the bills. When I watch children of my friends graduate from college and step into positions that makes more than what I make at the top of my pay scale with a master’s degree, how do you think that makes me feel? That’s right…so unappreciated by my state. Thank goodness, I love my job and my students!

  20. I taught for ten years and declared bankruptcy as well. There was no way to pay all of my bills and my student loans, even with a Master’s Degree. I walked away and took a job making almost twice as much doing something unrelated to education where my degrees aren’t even needed. What NC is doing to teachers is a disgrace. I think our country’s real crisis is education. By the time people recognize it and anything is done about it, we will have lost an entire generation. Wake up!

  21. I am also a first year teacher in North Carolina (in a neighboring county, actually) and will make around $30,000 this year, before taxes. Although I agree that teachers are underpaid and overworked, I don’t feel that this is an accurate portrayal of an average teacher’s financial woes. I don’t want society thinking that I am overpaid, but I am certainly not living in poverty. If money is managed sensibly, few teachers should be going without food or other necessities.

    Regarding children, the decision to start a family is not an easy one. My husband and I have made the choice to wait until we can afford to clothe, feed, and care for them on our own. He is a first year teacher as well.

    1. I see where you are coming from, but if every decided wait to afford children, 75% would never have them. We are not on government assistance at all, but it is hard trying to afford everything that comes with raising a new life. Living in Charlotte, NC has been horrible on my wallet and most teachers. We are underpaid, over worked, for $30,000 a year. Yes some say we only work 10 months out of the year, but that still means we need to find a job to pay us during those summer months. Schools in the north, though the cost of living is higher, pay their teachers $75,000 a year. Here in the south, after finishing a masters degree, you get a whole $2,500 more a year. WOW! Pretty amazing don’t you think. Yes $30,000 isn’t a small income, but being a teacher isn’t an easy job. Why is it that the jobs with the most stress and government paid get the least income? Police officers, fire fighters and teacher are all in the same boat. Our lives, education and safety depend on these jobs, and the government treats them like dirt. If we want to keep up with other countries on the educational front, we can’t have stressed out teachers who resent their job because they can’t afford most necessities in life. Stop building new stadiums, arenas and skyscrapers in the city, and pay the teachers that are raising your children 40 hours a week.

      1. The idea that we have good salaries and summers off is laughable. Here’s the reality: Working 10 months out of the year only means we have to stretch a 10 month salary to last for 12 months. Because of this, most teachers supplement their salaries by working the two months over the summer. So do not think that teachers get their summers “off.”

    2. You are married and childless, so hardly able to speak on behalf of others who may not be as fortunate as you. When you and your husband are still making the same pay after 7 years because of the hiring freeze, have not been able to afford a home in a nice neighborhood, and still cannot afford to have children as your fertility is running out…then you can come and post smug comments about your superior money management.

      1. Being child-free is a choice that I have made, so I don’t consider myself any more or less fortunate than the author. Not owning a home (and mortgage!) in a nice neighborhood is a choice that I have made as well. I would much rather live in an affordable apartment than be strapped with a mortgage that I can’t afford.

        I am not trying to bash the author, as it is very brave of her to share her story. I just want to state that all teachers are not living in poverty. A teacher’s wage can be managed.

        1. Sarah, what you have done is borrowed from your future.

          I assume you are living in an apartment but we have homes. When we are old and gray our homes will be paid for. When you are old and gray you will still have to work to pay for your apartment.

          I assume you have not decided whether you will have any children but we have already made that decision. We bear the burdens of childhood to enjoy the pleasures from watching them grow so that when we are old and gray we will not be lonely. If you will not risk having children now then you risk an empty life later. Someone sacrificed to raise you. It’s arrogant not to pay that gift forward.

          You are borrowing from your future and eventually you will have to pay your debts. You are thinking only of “now”. We are thinking about the future. So who is the wiser? Watch ‘The Secret Powers of Time’ an RSA Animation of a speech by psychologist Philip Zimbardo on YouTube. It’s only 10 minutes long but it will make you think.

        2. Sarah, I don’t disagree with you about a lifestyle being a choice… But consider your stage of life versus where you will be 10, 20, 30 years from now. Right now you are more likely in a place where you are thrilled to have a job and be getting paid, having recently graduated from college. Consider your future dreams, and the security of knowing that if you work hard, eventually you will have something to show for it. Then take into consideration the unexpected… divorce (which is a biggie when there are financial difficulties), children, illness, aging parents, etc… or how about cancer? Yes, we have good insurance that will pay for your treatment, should you or your spouse be diagnosed for the dreaded disease… but is your income now enough to cover nearly $3500/year out of pocket, not to mention co-pays, hotels and gas when you must travel to a larger city for treatment?

          All this was to say, think about the future and empathize with those who started in their careers believing that it was that indeed; a career. None of us came into education for the money. Most of us didn’t come into it for recognition… I, however, as a single mom who worked diligently through graduate school (going through a divorce in the midst) and who is employeed as an advanced degree instructional staff, would greatly appreciate some stability in my finances. I DO live frugally, I CANNOT make a choice to not have children, I do NOT have a fancy car but I still have to pay a car loan and housing is NOT affordable unless I am on public assistance; for which I do not qualify. I currently work 3 jobs just to put food on the table.

          Something isn’t right about state of education in the nation, and certainly in the state of North Carolina.

          Keep an open mind and try not to place blame on those of us who ARE stuggling. I am not 23 years old… And I don’t have a husband to help support my income as an educator. As the writer above stated, “The pain of education cuts is very real. Good teachers will cease to exist if the profession brings with it a life of poverty and blame.”

    3. Like you, my husband and I budget carefully and are probably better off than most, but he has been out of work for two years, we haven’t had a vacation in over 3 and we could barely afford to send me home when my mom was dying. I work two jobs during the school year and in May I’ll handle two part-time and my school job. My car has 265,000 miles on it, and most of my students drive newer nicer cars. I can’t afford to put part of my teaching salary away for the summer. I am doing more paperwork, for less money(inflation) and I am falling further and further behind. I am exhausted and angry. We too tried to do the right thing. We decided to wait until we can afford children- I am in my 40’s and can no longer conceive. And I certainly can not afford any treatments to help me conceive. It’s too late. It shouldn’t be like this. You do all of the right things, have a master’s degree and 17 years experience, and this is where you end, with no end in sight.

      1. Julie, I am so sorry for you. I pray your husband finds a job and then you leave education for something better. We have been betrayed. Go find happiness. Adopt a child. Help others when and where you can. And above all seek God.

    4. I totally disagree with your comments that this is not an accurate portrayal of the teacher situation here in NC. I am currently finishing up my 9th year teaching, have a master’s degree and because I wanted to have a family before I was old and gray I had to get a part time job to supplement our family income to provide the basics. I by no means live in a lavish home, and I do budget accordingly, but it is sad when you have choose between buying food or paying utility bills.

  22. I am in my 17th year of teaching and I finally had to give up and declare bankruptcy. I almost lost my house this last year, my ac needs replaced as does my knee and hip. I suffer from lupus so I have to have the ac fixed so I rely on a cane and pain pills to work. I need a new car and the frig is ready to go too. It is only me and my grandson so people think I should be able to make it only with the low salary, high medical bills, and eleven year replacements I am hurting.
    Somehow we will all make it but to do so we need the government and the people behind us!

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