600 Teachers Quit in Wake County, North Carolina

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Teachers in North Carolina’s largest school system are leaving their jobs in droves. The Wake County School District says 600 teachers have quit since the school year began.

The district says that’s up 41 percent compared to a year ago.

What’s behind the mass exodus?

“We’re going on years with no raises for teachers, and there needs to be a change,”departing elementary school teacher Kelly Nystrom told CNN affiliate WNCN.

But for hundreds of teachers in Wake County they just can’t afford to wait for a change.

“Now we have to leave, just to make ends meet,” departing high school teacher Britt Morton said.

“Being a teacher is who I am. It’s what I think about. It’s what I read about. It’s what I do. It’s who I am,” Nystrom told WNCN. “To have to make the decision to leave that for financial reasons was devastating.”

The mass exodus isn’t just affecting today’s teachers. Dr. Michael Maher with the College of Education at North Carolina State University says the future supple of teachers is also dwindling.

“We have students who think, why should I go into a profession where I’m going to be poorly educated? I’m going to lack due process rights, when I can go into another profession where I’m going to be compensated fairly, and I’m going to have a greater deal of autonomy,” Dr. Maher said.

Wake schools blame stagnant pay; the ending of career status, and the elimination of pay increases for advanced degrees.

“This is an alarm cry. I need somebody to care, and I need somebody to recognize the problem, and I need the people who can do something about it to listen and respond,” Dr. Jim Merrill, Wake County Schools Superintendent pleaded.

State republicans say they are listening — promising to raise starting salaries from $30,800 to $35,000 when the general assembly convenes next month.

“There’s no doubt that the base pay of teachers is the first priority,” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said. “Another priority is to try and get pay raises for all state employees, including all teachers, but I’ve also got a constitutional responsibility to balance the budget.”