The Teacher Workday Issue
Reducing the number of teacher workdays, an important part of the current school calendar debate, was introduced by legislators seeking to make salaries and working conditions for North Carolina teachers more competitive with other states.
The state has faced a critical shortage of qualified teachers for several years, with thousands more leaving the profession each year for better paying jobs in other industries or to teach in other states.
What are Teacher Workdays?
Teacher workdays are the total number of days a classroom teacher must work beyond the 180 instructional days in order to earn their annual salary. Prior to the passage of the School Calendar Law (which is officially known as SL 2004-180), North Carolina required teachers to work twenty (20) additional days, the highest number of non-instructional teacher workdays in the nation. SL 2004-180 reduced that number to fifteen (15).
Originally, workdays were intended to allow teachers to prepare for classroom work associated directly with their students. Administrators now schedule almost all of these days for system-wide or in-school meetings that teachers are required to attend...or other peripheral duties.
For the remaining days, often referred to as "optional workdays," teachers are indirectly encouraged to not show up for work and to report the day as a vacation day. Reporting a teacher workday as a vacation day reduces the accrued vacation time the teacher may earn that the school system would be obligated to pay at the end of the school year.
Basic Facts About Teacher Workdays and North Carolina Teacher Salaries:
- The average number of teacher workdays nationwide is six (6) according to research undertaken by staff of the General Assembly. In North Carolina before SL 2004-180, the number was twenty (20).
- The present School Calendar Law reduced the total number of teacher workdays from twenty to fifteen (15). That is still more than twice the national average.
- Average annual teacher salaries in North Carolina are 7% below the national average and falling further behind. A first year teacher in North Carolina, with a four-year bachelors degree, is paid less than $26,000 by the state.
- Based on 2004-2005 pay schedules, a Board Certified teacher in North Carolina, with a bachelors degree, must work twenty years before being paid the national average by the state. (This does not include any supplemental salary paid by a local school system).
What does all this mean?
Teachers in North Carolina are currently required to work up to nine more days each year than teachers in other states. Even though they work more days, their annual salary averages 7% less than teachers in other states!
Legislators who supported the reduction in the number of teacher workdays from twenty to fifteen, thus bringing basic teacher compensation a little closer to that offered in other states, hope this will help North Carolina schools attract more qualified individuals to the profession, and slow down the exodus of teachers to other states and industries for better pay and working conditions.
Across the state, parents have complained that school boards were using teacher workdays as a way to prolong the student calendar and shorten the summer vacation. Working parents, in particular, questioned the scheduling of so many workdays within the student calendar citing daycare and the ongoing interruptions to the learning process as concerns.
While the focus of the Save Our Summers movement has been the issue of early school start dates, many SOS-NC supporters following the debate about teacher workdays have begun to better understand the many problems and inequities teachers face in North Carolina.
Save Our Summers fully supports SL 2004-180 but has never taken an official position on the specific question of the amount or use of teacher workdays. A majority of educators, individually and collectively through the North Carolina Association of Educators and the Classroom Teachers Association, support a reduction of teacher workdays, and the protection of those workdays for in-the-classroom, in order to improve North Carolinas teacher retention and competitiveness, thus improving the quality of education our children receive.