REIVES: Educators are superheroes


North Carolina teachers put in hundreds of hours into their profession. Their work extends far outside the walls of a classroom; they support our state’s children at sports games, band performances, and church programs. They are the glue that holds our schools and communities together.

But right now, teachers in North Carolina are overworked, underpaid, and disrespected. Republican leaders in the General Assembly have created these conditions.

Teachers are expected to do more with less. Youth across North Carolina are experiencing a serious mental health crisis, and teachers are on the frontlines. When our schools fall short of the psychologists, counselors, and nurses that are desperately needed, teachers shoulder the additional demands. They are not only in charge of learning, but they care for kids who are going through a hard time.

It’s harder for teachers because they don’t have the assistants they need. Teacher assistants especially help children in lower grades who need extra support. Since these Republican leaders took over the NCGA, they have reduced the number of state funded teacher assistants by almost 20%, from 18,227 to 14,798 TAs.

When looking across the United States, we are one of the worst states for teacher pay. In beginning teacher pay, we rank 46th nationally. We pay new teachers less than Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee do. If the starting salary is so abysmal, it’s hard to convince incoming professionals to even enter the teaching pipeline.

Republican leadership claim they are giving raises to teachers, but they are really handing out scraps. Educators aren’t fooled. Teacher salaries have not kept up with inflation, and they feel it in their pocketbooks.

One of my constituents, Guadalupe, is finishing her fourth year in the classroom. She has an associate’s, bachelor's and master’s degree. Her passion for teaching fuels her: “I chose to be a teacher because I wanted to make a difference, even if it’s small and localized to my community.”

But her family sometimes faces a challenging financial position because of her choice to be a teacher: “I have had to forgo medical services because of the cost of prescriptions for my children. Being a professional with a Master’s degree, I as well as other educators should not be in the predicament where we cannot afford our health needs.”

In 2013, the Republican majority in our state legislature took away master’s pay. They also took away health benefits for retired educators.

The man at the top of the North Carolina Republican ticket in 2024 has called teachers “wicked people.” He sounds like a schoolyard bully, not someone who supports educators and the children they instruct.

We also see disrespect coming from the Republican leadership at the NC General Assembly. Their legislative priorities have been to manufacture culture wars and control the curriculum that teachers are trained to teach. The House passed a bill that restricts instruction about important parts of our country’s history and micromanages the social studies curriculum. And instead of addressing real issues like fully funding public schools or raising teacher pay, Republican leaders passed a “Parents’ Bill of Rights” that burdens teachers with more paperwork and concocts culture wars in our classrooms.

Educators should have their work valued, be paid accordingly, and get respect from our state legislature. They aren’t getting any of the three right now. We owe better to Guadalupe and the thousands of other teachers across the state. Our number one goal this November should be to break the Republican supermajority so we can finally reprioritize public education.

Robert Reives II is the NC House Democratic Leader and represents Chatham County.