Jim Goodnight, teacher advocate?

David Mildenberg - May 16, 2014 - 8:00:00 am

Higher teacher pay is the cause celebre in North Carolina these days. SAS Institute CEO Jim Goodnight recently visited Fortune magazine’s New York offices to press the case for North Carolina’s teachers, prompting a column by Editor Andy Serwer. North Carolina children are the losers because starting public-school teachers earn less than $31,000 a year, especially poorer kids who don’t have the money to attend private schools, Goodnight said.

Of course North Carolina teachers have been saying this for decades. So what has changed? Five reasons, according to Rodney Ellis, president of the Raleigh-based N.C. Association of Educators, which has about 70,000 members and is affiliated with the National Education Association, the biggest U.S. teachers union.
His answers are edited for brevity.

1. Teachers are leaving our state in droves and when parents learn that a teacher they respect and appreciate in their child’s school is leaving because they cannot afford to provide for their families on an N.C.’s teacher salary, they become frustrated and begin to speak in support of salary increases to keep teachers in their schools.

2. Many teachers in North Carolina qualify for government assistance, including food stamps and Medicaid. Concerned citizens in North Carolina do not appreciate the idea of their valued teachers qualifying for food stamps.

3. North Carolina ranks 46th in the nation in teacher pay and last among southeastern states.  I believe North Carolinians are a prideful people and are embarrassed by the abysmal ranking of our state in teacher pay.

4. Former Gov. Jim Hunt has launched an “Aim Higher” campaign challenging the state to move teacher pay to the national average. Hunt is widely regarded as a true education governor and his campaign has brought the plight of teacher salary to the attention of some influential residents who agree that teachers deserve at least the national average salary.

5. I believe the combined efforts of the NCAE, Gov. Hunt, parents and concerned citizens are putting pressure on lawmakers to do something about teacher pay now.  This demand has led to the development of alternative compensation proposals. The attention these proposals receive is contributing to teacher salaries becoming a “hot button” issue.

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