My entire teaching career has been spent in Hanover County.
Now, after 7 years of teaching, I find that I meet the income restrictions for a Habitat for Humanity House.  I also qualify for a low income discount membership at the YMCA. For the record, I saved and bought a townhouse, not a Habitat house; a property tax increase would affect me. With all that said, as a Hanover County resident, I still am willing to have a property tax increase to support our schools and our emergency services because I believe it is absolutely necessary at this point.
Is the community aware that both single teachers and teachers who are the sole breadwinner for a family, on steps 0 to 13 of the salary scale with a bachelor’s degree would meet the income restrictions for a Habitat house? So do teachers on steps 0 to 4 with a Master’s degree.  Keep in mind that in addition to not typically getting a raise each year, teachers also have not gotten step increases, so a teacher on step 13 has actually been teaching more than 13 years. Teacher salaries have not kept pace with rising cost of living.
Many teachers I know who are on the first half of the salary scale have had to get a second job in the past couple years, because over most of the past decade the cost of living has dramatically increased while salaries have remained relatively stagnant, with only rare step or salary increases. These dedicated teachers spend countless hours outside of contract hours on teaching-related tasks, plus they work a second job in order to pay the bills. I can’t imagine how this is sustainable when teachers are repeatedly asked to “do more with less” year after year after year. No teacher goes into teaching to become rich, but most don’t expect to still be considered “low income” after a decade into their career, or to have to get a second job just to make ends meet. What will the impact be on our students if the teacher turnover rate becomes higher? What will be the impact of fewer outside-of-contract hours available to grade and plan?
Many of these quality educators who have made a significant impact on students over the past decade or so now find themselves asking, “How much longer can I afford to teach in Hanover? How much more evening and weekend family time am I willing to give up because I can’t complete my teaching-related duties during contract hours? How do my family and students suffer because I have to work a second job in order to make ends meet?” How much longer will teachers be willing and able to make these personal sacrifices, all the while knowing next year will bring even less planning time and even more demands? Tightening the belt is one thing, but when tightening the belt becomes a lifestyle for many years, the results are devastating for our children and our community. Unfortunately for our students, time is running out.
While the “6 of 8 schedule” at the high schools has gotten a lot of press, deservedly so, there is another major issue that is not getting enough press: The county has no long term plan to sufficiently fund education at all levels, K-12.
Each year, it finds “band aids” such as the textbook fund and rainy day fund, to fill gaps. According to Friends of Hanover Schools, 40% of funds that were used as Band-Aids to balance this year’s school budget will not be available next year. What “band aids” will be used next year when we have an even bigger gap to fill, and have already been surviving on “bare bones status” for several years, and at what cost to our students and our property values?
How many Hanover residents and Board of Supervisors opposing tax increases went to public school? At the time, did they pay for their education themselves? Of course not, they were too young. The adults in their community at that time cared enough about the children in their community to sufficiently fund their education, even though they didn’t necessarily like paying taxes. I’m sure the adults hoped and expected that those school children would step up to the plate once they became responsible adults in order to provide the same quality of education to their children and their children’s children that was provided for them.
I hope and pray that people in Hanover soul search and find it in their hearts to give our Hanover children the same, if not better, educational opportunity today. Most people don’t like paying taxes. Most people don’t like stopping at red lights or cleaning the bathroom either. Sometimes it is necessary in life to take responsibility and do things that we don’t like to do because they are the right things to do.
HCPS ESL Teacher and Hanover resident