Texas school system tries to poach NC teachers

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A Texas school system has placed a wanted ad for teachers specifically from North Carolina.

The Houston Independent School District recently placed an ad in The News & Observer with the headline “Calling all North Carolina Teachers.” The ad shows a promised starting salary of $46,805.

The starting salary in Houston is $16,000 more per year than what current teachers in North Carolina get paid. Gov. Pat McCrory has promised in his new budget that teachers will soon earn a starting salary of $35,000, or $11,805 less than they would in Houston.

“If I were a brand new teacher, I’d start looking at what the living conditions are like in Houston,” said Sara Buechler, who took early retirement in October from Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. “Where is Wake County going to recruit teachers if Houston is going to come and take some of our best? The school I left had one of our very best teachers leave and return to Indiana because she could make a better wage there.”

The cost of living in Houston is higher than the cost of living in Raleigh, according to CNN Money’s cost of living calculator. To compare, someone making $50,000 in Raleigh would have to make 5 percent more, or $52,632, in Houston, according to the calculator.

A teacher from Raleigh would earn 25 percent more while teaching in Houston, far exceeding the need of a 5 percent salary increase to cover cost of living.

“People have to live, and sometimes respect comes with increased pay,” Buechler said. “If no one wants to pay a good wage for all your hard work, for all your advanced degrees — it’s just not fair.”

Christine Kushner, chair of the Wake County School Board, said the ad proves that North Carolina needs to increase its salaries for teachers.

“Our teacher salaries have fallen behind the national average. Teacher salaries across the country have been going steadily up and ours have stayed flat,” Kushner said. “Our teachers have lost spending power and now they are being heavily recruited from outside the state.”

Kushner said county leaders are waiting to see what the state does when it comes to higher teacher pay, but some state leaders say school systems should also look at local funding for teacher salaries.

Wake County Public Schools announced in April that 600 teachers had quit since the start of the school year. That is a 41 percent increase over the same number who had resigned around the same time last year.

“I’m concerned about our teacher workforce and starting the school year with more substitute teachers,” Kushner said.

Buechler explained that she took early retirement because she became disgusted by the low-paying salary, increasing class sizes and she believed the General Assembly didn’t care about teachers.

“It was about the discouraging atmosphere in schools,” Buechler said. “The lack of respect by legislators and lack of respect on working conditions of teachers with respect to how important class size is.

“I think teachers are demoralized by what they see the legislature doing. They worked for 7 years with no step increase.”

The Houston Independent School District is holding a job fair on Saturday at the DoubleTree Raleigh on Hillsborough Street.

Although the starting teacher salary for the Houston jobs may be appealing, Kushner says Wake County has its own appeal.

“It’s hot in Houston all year round. If you want a spring, stay in Wake County,” Kushner said.

The superintendent of Houston Independent Schools, Terry Grier, used to be the superintendent of Guilford County Schools in Greensboro.

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