How budget cuts affect me: One teacher's story

How budget cuts affect me: One teacher's story

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by JEREMY MARKOVICH / NBC Charlotte

WCNC.com

Posted on July 23, 2013 at 6:22 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 23 at 7:08 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – One woman emailed lawmakers, and NBC Charlotte, upset that proposed budget cuts would take money away from education in North Carolina.

“I wrote [that email] this morning,” said Lindsay Merritt, a second grade teacher at Koontz Elementary in Salisbury. “I had seen a lot of news coverage about the budget, and it really bothered me.”

Lindsay says the cuts would get rid of qualified teachers, and she laid out her example of what they’d do to her family financially:

•    Merritt was accepted to a Master program in education at UNC Charlotte last year in an effort to help her students and help her get a pay raise. Under the budget proposal, any pay raise she would receive for getting her Masters would go away.
•    Due to salary freezes, Merritt is being paid like a first year teacher. She’s now in her seventh year of teaching, and the budget would stop pay raises for teachers.
•    She’s getting more vacation days, but says that’s moot since the school year has gotten longer for her.

She looked at her budget earlier this year with her husband. “And we looked at my commute, from Charlotte to Salisbury every day on 485 and 85 will all the construction,” Merritt says. “With that, and my child care expenses for both of my kids to go to daycare, I am actually paying money to go to work in North Carolina. My salary is less than my childcare and gas to get me to school.

“So when people say you should do it just for the students, I technically am doing it just for the students, because I am making nothing.”

Gov. McCrory said teachers would bring home more money because the tax plan he signed today lowers the personal income tax rate. Merritt says it’s not enough to make a difference.

She says she’s received two responses from lawmakers, both former educators, who said they would vote against the budget. Her full letter is below:

My name is Lindsay Merritt, I am a 7th year teacher, here in NC. I currently live in Charlotte where my husband and I are raising our two kids. I am writing this because I am highly concerned in the direction our education system is going. I come from a family of educators, my mother is a 20 year teacher assistant, my mother in law is a guidance councillor, and my sister inlaw is a ten year teacher.  With the new budget proposed, not only would I continue to make the same salary I have made for the last six years, I no longer will have the opportunity for tenure, and my mother could lose her job.
   I want to take a minute to share something with you. I was accepted to UNC Charlotte in July of 2012. At the time I was pregnant with my second child, but knew I wanted to get my Masters in education, to help my students, but also to be able to make a little extra to support this new addition to our family. I have worked in title one schools all six years of my teaching, I was awarded a Teach Grant for part of my tuition, securing my working in title one schools for another six years. As I'm sure you know these are high need schools, where teachers are required to not only meet state standards but also the emotional, nutritional, and financial needs of the students we teach. While teaching full time, having a child in December and continuing with my studies, I am entering my last year of the Graduate Reading program at UNC Charlotte with a 4.0 gpa. I actually am going off the payroll to take an Educational Leave of Absence so that I can complete my studies in one year. 
      According to the proposed budget, I would graduate right when the Graduate teacher pay will be dismantled, putting the last two years worth of hard work, study, late nights, and persistence for naught. One might say, you should do it for the students, and I do, but what about my own children? I will have 6 years worth of education, a Master's degree, but with student loans, taxes, and cost of living rising, if something ever happened to my husband, my children and I might make enough to qualify for government assistance. How sad!
      The state of NC is losing great teachers daily, due to the stress of the job, lack of compensation, and frankly the lack of support from our elected leaders. More is being added to our plate including assessments, students, and new curriculum, and yet we are losing pay, assistance, and and motivation to further ourselves. If this continues, NC will move from its distinguished place at 46th in quality public education, to 50th. You will have classrooms full of angry, stressed, exhausted, teachers who are worried about being able to pay bills instead of the education of their students. You will have college students no longer wanting to go into the teaching profession, and students who look to their teachers as no less than a McDonald's employee, expecting to be served for nearly the same pay.
     Please reconsider the budget and think it through, for the sake of the people you represent, and for education in the state of NC.

Lindsay Merritt
2nd Grade Teacher
Koontz Elementary

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