Classes are starting this week in the Houston Independent School District, the largest school district in Texas and one of the largest in the nation.
Among the new faces in classrooms are plenty of new teachers. This year, the school district, which has roughly 12,000 teaching positions with about 1,700 new teachers.
Although three out of four new teachers come from within Texas, the rest come from outside the state, and, as Houston’s KTRK-TV reported on Monday, 10 percent those out-of-staters are coming from North Carolina.
In the Tar Heel State, teachers make $10,000 less than the national average, a fact that has made leaving the state for better pay an enticing proposition.
According to KTRK-TV:
After years with no raises, earlier this month North Carolina legislators approved an increase in salary for teachers effective this year. But critics of the budget plan say it's not enough.
"I would say we are in crisis mode right now," Mark Jewell tells Eyewitness News.
Jewell is with the North Carolina Association of Educators. He says HISD Superintendent Terry Grier, who used to work with Jewell in North Carolina, knows teachers are ripe for the picking because of low pay and lack of funding.
"He is doing probably what any employer would want to do, is go and look where there is discontent and offer them something better," Jewell said.
Starting pay at HISD is roughly $49,000 a year. In North Carolina it averages $33,000. It takes a teacher there twenty five years of service to reach $49,000.
Teacher pay was tossed around as a political football during North Carolina’s recent dragged-out budget negotiations, with Gov. Pat McCrory disagreeing with some of his fellow Republicans, who control the North Carolina General Assembly, on how to fund teacher raises. One proposal, which eventually failed, would have tied teacher pay raises to projected increases in lottery revenue.
Houston’s schools took advantage of the discontent by placing job ads in North Carolina newspapers and websites touting higher pay in Texas and holding recruitment fairs in the Tar Heel State this spring and summer.
In newspaper and online advertisements, Houston said it was “calling all North Carolina teachers.” The ads touted starting salaries of $46,805 for teachers. Houston also pays bonuses of as much as $13,000 year to teachers based on the test scores of their students.
Under North Carolina’s current state pay scale, a starting teacher with just a bachelor’s degree gets $30,800 and would reach $47,060 after 28 years of experience. Teachers have gotten more money if they earn a master’s degree and national board certification, and if they work in a district that supplements the state’s pay.
WATCH: A North Carolina teacher talks about leaving the state
Editor's note: This post has been updated to correct the formal name of Houston's public school district, the Houston Independent School District.