BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- The state's top educator wants to take some of the financial burden off North Carolina teachers.
State Superintendent June Atkinson is urging lawmakers to consider exempting public school teachers from personal state income taxes.
North Carolina ranks 46th in teacher pay. Atkinson says something must change to make the state more competitive in attracting good teachers.
"The single most important resource in schools that helps kids to be successful is a classroom teacher," Brunswick County Teacher of the Year Laura Hunter. "That should be the place that we pour resources and support in every way we possibly can. Right now we're not doing it."
Hunter says state budget plans show state leaders do not value the work of teachers.
"In our society, we pay what we recognize as valuable," she said. "The way we are paying teachers in North Carolina says that we don't value what they do in their classrooms."
She says teachers, including herself, often have to work two and sometimes even three jobs away from school, just to make ends meet. She says this is the reason the turnover rate for teachers is so high.
"Teachers come in, they're invested in the process, but after five years of seeing no pay increase, they leave to other professions and to other states," Hunter said. "Our kids cant afford that.."
Shallotte Middle School teacher Martie Arrowood says better pay or money saved through an income tax exemption could help teachers focus on only one job.
"Which means they've got more time for the classroom, time for preparation, or just more time for family," Arrowood said.
Atkinson fears that if nothing is done, the future of our school systems may be grim.
"I believe that we will be in trouble as we go forward if we do not have competitive wages for our teachers," she said. "And we need to keep the talent, the expertise and the confidence in our public schools."
We tried to contact local legislators to see what they thought of Atkinson's idea, but they were either in meetings, or we did not hear back.