WJTV News Channel 12 - Emotions, opinions run deep at WNCN 'Teacher Town Hall'

Emotions, opinions run deep at WNCN 'Teacher Town Hall'

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WNCN took an in-depth look at the future of K-12 education in North Carolina Monday, with a one-hour special that evaluated the issue in light of the recent General Assembly session. (Patrick Priest, WNCN) WNCN took an in-depth look at the future of K-12 education in North Carolina Monday, with a one-hour special that evaluated the issue in light of the recent General Assembly session. (Patrick Priest, WNCN)
WNCN's Penn Holderness and Pam Saulsby get ready for Monday's Teacher Town Hall. (Eileen Park, WNCN) WNCN's Penn Holderness and Pam Saulsby get ready for Monday's Teacher Town Hall. (Eileen Park, WNCN)
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Emotions ran high Monday night as teachers and administrators from the region joined WNCN for a passionate discussion of public education at "The State of Our Schools – A Teacher Town Hall" at a historic elementary school in downtown Raleigh.

WNCN anchors Penn Holderness and Pam Saulsby hosted the event, which included State Superintendent June Atkinson and other educational leaders.

Atkinson made a forceful case for increasing pay for teachers, saying, "We must raise our teachers' salaries to a much higher place than we are now."

She called it "a sad state" that North Carolina is 46th in the country in teacher pay.

The state of education in North Carolina has been the subject of intense debate since Gov. Pat McCrory took office in January and teamed with a Republican-led General Assembly to put North Carolina on new paths.

McCrory included a 1 percent pay raise for state employees, including teachers, in his original budget proposal, but signed a budget that did not include raises for any state employees.

Teachers were irked that they received no pay raise yet again, and many raised concerns that the state was not pushing enough funding overall into public education.

>>>June Atkinson/N.C SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION:
     "Before we have a discussion about merit pay, we must raise our teacher salaries to a much higher place than where we are now."

"Regardless of political party, public education is nonpartisan," Mark Jewell with the North Carolina Association of Educators said.  "North Carolina thrives when business and industry and public education work together.  That's what made us a world class system."

"Teacher pay, we've heard tonight is absolutely critical," Granville County Schools Superintendent Tim Farley said, "and I think class size is absolutely critical.  We can't wait.  We don't have any time for this stuff."

Read comments from WNCN followers on Twitter

It's an emotional, and important, discussion in a state that has taken immense pride in its public schools and universities.

The Murphey School, located on Person Street, was the first integrated school in Raleigh when Bill Campbell arrived as the first black student in 1960. The school auditorium is now the home of the Burning Coal Theater.

Teachers expressed their concerns inside that auditorium Monday night. One woman said she had to leave education after making the same amount in  2013 that she earned in 2009.

Another expressed concern about teachers with master's degrees not receiving higher salaries.

"I do see many of my colleagues leaving the state for other jobs that are higher paying," she said. "And I see people leaving the profession all together for a higher salary."

And a Durham teacher said she was "completely disheartened" by what she was hearing about funding for public education.

"It makes you feel like, what do I do now? Do I stay in this profession?" she said.

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