Like you, we’re saddened, frustrated, and outraged that teachers in North Carolina have to work second and third jobs just to make ends meet. What’s worse is that these problems can be easily fixed—at the local level, and at the state level. Here’s our recommendations:

State-level: Pay teachers more by raising salaries statewide

This year, our state is again reporting a surplus—$3.2 billion worth—that could be used to raise teacher salaries across the board. We can think of no better uses for our tax dollars than bringing starting teacher salaries to the national average ($41,770, compared to $37,127 now). The Public School Forum, a state advocacy organization for public education, has called for boosting teacher pay by 24.5 percent, which would mean starting teachers would make $46,037.

National-level: Advocate with your House reps and Senators

Ask them to support the American Teachers Act, which would raise base pay of teachers to $60,000 nationwide. The bill was introduced a few weeks ago and has bipartisan support.

State-level: Advocate against performance pay and for “funding Leandro”

Leandro is a court ruling that demands adequate funding for public schools. This would also raise teacher pay and create better working conditions in so many ways across NC schools. Hundreds of millions of dollars are on the line.

Local-level: Commit more money locally to our schools

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools have the reputation of being the best in the state, but our high property values gives us the opportunity to do more. Asheville City Schools spends almost 25 percent more per pupil in local spending than we do. We can use the extra money to bring back longevity pay in our district.

Local-level: Use land on school-owned property to build teacher housing

Orange County owns the land on which our schools sit. We have approximately ~1200 teachers. If we wanted to, we could build subsidized housing for every teacher in the district at almost no cost to the district.

One place to look: Asheville. The SECU Foundation partnered with Asheville City and Buncombe County Schools, Eblen Charities, and Buncombe County to provide a 15-year interest free loan for the construction of a 24-unit apartment complex in Asheville. You can read more about this project in a DPI brief.

Local-level: Consider reallocating resources

Our school system maintains several magnet schools. We know that people like them, and that it’s great for us to be able to offer such an array of programs. But is this the best use of scarce resources? We recommend studying the financial, social, and environmental costs of offering these programs that often have upwards of 40+ people on waitlists each year, and require bussing people far from their neighborhood school.

In the last municipal election cycle, we helped increase turnout by over 20 percent. We're all volunteers who care deeply about Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and we're working to make Chapel Hill and Carrboro more vibrant, accessible, fun, and sustainable.  Please consider a small donation to help us keep our digital lights on, host events, and hire students to do data deep-dives.

Martin Johnson lives in Chapel Hill. He teaches film studies courses at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is also a member of NEXT Chapel Hill-Carrboro and the Bicycle Alliance of Chapel...