by Brian Washington
An all too familiar refrain is being repeated by many of the best educators in the nation—“I love my kids. I love teaching, but I can’t afford to do it anymore.”
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Some teachers are getting out of the profession altogether, while others are leaving the students, schools, and communities they love in favor of other states where educators can make enough money to pay their bills and raise a family. The latter situation is true for Chris Gable, a social studies and language arts teacher at Asheville Middle School in Asheville, North Carolina.
Gable has resigned his position this month and he and his family are moving to Ohio. He says a teacher with his qualifications—ten years experience and a master’s degree—can earn about $30,000 more than what he is making. Gable’s current salary stands $38,000, which qualifies him, his wife, and their three young children for Medicaid and food assistance.
Asheville Middle School is going to be losing a good teacher. Gable was the only teacher at his school to exceed expected growth at his school and, in addition to teaching, he also coaches young writers and budding poets, and serves as bookkeeper, counselor, gym teacher, lunchroom supervisor, and several other roles at the school.
I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from parents and peers about the fact that I am leaving,” said Gable. “I want to continue to serve this community, but the state legislature has made it impossible.
That’s because state lawmakers have failed to provide teachers with an adequate pay raise in the last seven years and salaries are currently frozen. They have also eliminated additional pay for those educators who earn advance degrees and have cut back on funding for instructional supplies and teaching assistants.
Across the state of North Carolina, educators are engaging community stakeholders in an effort to get them to lean on state elected leaders on behalf of students, educators, and public schools. In schools around the state, teachers and education support professionals joined with parents as well as community and elected leaders to draw attention to the impact the changes made by the North Carolina Legislature is having on public education. While the demonstrations were successful in creating a community dialogue about what needs to change, it’s not enough to prevent Gable from leaving.
“It’s not my kids or the school district—it’s the state,” said Gable. “The people who are making decisions in the legislature have made it clear they don’t value teachers and have made a situation where many people just like me—who are seasoned, quality teachers—leave. The legislature has forced us to leave and it saddens me.”