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Volume 43, No. 9

Pay cuts, pay freezes hurt...mentally, physically, emotionally, financially...they hurt! Six years ago as a first-year teacher in Georgia, I made $31,000 a year. I took a pay cut when I moved to North Carolina and took a job teaching at South Caldwell High School. I not only made several thousand dollars less per year, I also had to deal with higher insurance costs. I thought the next year might yield a higher salary, but that same year the pay freeze was announced. I was stuck making nearly $3,000 less each year than I had when I first began. The low pay continued to affect my family as we struggled to afford food and pay medical bills. Even though I was working 50 hours a week and had medical insurance, I could not afford the copays for my doctor's visits during my pregnancy. Medicaid had to cover my prenatal medical costs. Our dependence on the system extended to my children's medical insurance and our eligibility for WIC. My husband applied at every Wal-Mart, Lowes, and fast food place within a 30-minute radius, but every place was on a hiring freeze. We longed for independence, but we could not support ourselves, even with my full-time job. The most painful part of this time in my life was the lack of nutrition, especially while pregnant. I drank one glass of milk per day, even though my doctor said I needed more. We hoarded pennies and quarters to buy an extra gallon here and there, but otherwise couldn't afford more than what WIC supplied. I no longer saw money in terms of dollars. I saw it in terms of milk. A cashier once gave me 75cents in unexpected change and I nearly

Rachel Koser teaches at South cried, calculating that I was one-fourth of the way closer to another gallon. Because we couldn't afford to heat our home, I will never forget balancing firewood on top of my five-months large belly so that my son's room could be warm. A professional organization membership was out of the question. The PTA made the teachers a breakfast one day. There were bananas, grapes, apples, oranges, and muffins. I filled my plate with fruit and brought it home. I felt relief and shame because my then-toddler son hadn't eaten fruit in days and plowed through the banana with both fists. I couldn't even remember the last time we'd been able to afford grapes. The pay freeze dragged from one year to the next. Even though I became a better, more effective teacher each year, even though I took on additional responsibilities and duties, even though I advanced my career, my pay stayed flat. The year the pay freeze "ended" brought no joy because the increased cost of benefits outweighed the small increase I received. Last year, my husband worked nights and I worked days because we could not afford day care for our two children. We were together as a family two nights a week. We qualified for an EBT food card, which

Caldwell High School in Caldwell County. A dedicated teacher who loves what she does, Koser is sharing the story of her family’s hardships, created she says due to education cuts and the lack of a decent salary increase in the past several years. Stories of educators living in poverty and dealing with dire circumstances are increasingly becoming the norm across the state. NCAE is diligently working to put a stop to this devastation because ALL educators deserve to be adequately compensated, treated as professionals, and have the tools and funding needed to educate their students.

supplied our family of four with $157 a month to buy food. We ate from our garden and used the food stamps to buy beans, rice, fruit, and dairy. I chopped firewood. My kids learned how to gather kindling. My husband hunted for meat. A position for a special education teacher became available at my school and my husband jumped on the opportunity. Although he has five years of military experience and four years of college, he was not hired. He applied for other positions in the school system, (See “Member” on page 5)

May 2013 NCAE News Bulletin  

All-member publication of the North Carolina Association of Educators

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