Mark Jewell is an elementary school teacher in Greensboro and president of the North Carolina Association of Educators. He said a starter salary for a public school in the state begins at around $35,000 annually, and is capped at around $52,000 annually.
He said stagnant wages are affecting teachers’ ability to do their jobs and pay their bills.
“Folks are struggling, they’re working two and three jobs to make ends meet,” Jewell said. “And we have just simply had enough.”
According to a 2018 report by the National Educators Association, North Carolina ranks 37th in the nation when it comes to teacher salaries. Jewell said many schools are significantly understaffed, and retaining qualified teachers is becoming an uphill battle.
“In the meantime, we have a huge teacher shortage of about 1,500 positions that reman vacant,” he said.
Jewell pointed out that communities often rely heavily on bus drivers and cafeteria workers, yet these remain the lowest-paying jobs in the education system.
“You know, we also talk about our lowest-paid workers, our bus drivers, cafeteria workers, teacher assistants, that are maybe making $20,000 a year,” Jewell said.
In North Carolina, more 1.5 million students attend public schools.