Updated:CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
Teacher pay in North Carolina ranks among the lowest in the country. It's a fact some say is leading teachers to leave the profession in search of higher-paying jobs.
"I wouldn't even call it a job. There was never one day where I was like, 'Oh I have to go into work today.' I was like, 'I get to go into work today," said former teacher Paul Edwards.
For five years, Paul Edwards taught first at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools then in Union County.
"I wanted to make a difference," Edwards said. "I felt like I was wanted by the students, the students needed me there."
Edwards says he watched students succeed in his class and loved it.
He said the decision to leave came down to money.
"I struggled year after year making payments. I had student loans," he said.
With one child at home and another on the way, Edwards didn't think teaching could support his family any more. He left last year.
"It was a very difficult decision," he said.
Mark Edwards, Mooresville's superintendent, told Eyewitness News about a recent conversation he had with one of his principals about good teachers.
"He said 'I'm really concerned we are going to lose them,'" Mark Edwards said.
Edwards says some of those teachers especially newer ones are pursuing opportunities in other states.
His own daughter is one. She's teaching in Tennessee.
"She is making $11,000 more than she would have made in Mooresville," MarkEdwards said. "I think when we lose teachers to other states, I think the likelihood of gaining them back will be very small."
Each year, the state Department of Public Instruction releases a teacher turnover study.
It tracks teachers who leave to teach elsewhere, change careers or are dissatisfied.
Eyewitness News pulled studies from the past five years.
"I think we need to be very attentive of that I think we should track it and follow it very carefully," Mark Edwards said.
Union County Rep. Craig Horn is on the state education committee.
He's heard an earful from educators and business leaders about increasing teacher pay.
"I think we will. I know we must," Horn said.
He's also looking for data to help support the stories he's hearing.
"We have got to raise the floor and then offer an opportunity for those high quality teachers," he said.
Horn said this isn't an issue that just popped up under a Republican majority -- it's been building for years.
He said raises didn't happen last year because Republicans were struggling with a large deficit. This year. it was Medicaid costs.
He thinks the state budget will look better this year.
"They need a raise. We are going to get a raise and I'm saying we're going to get them a raise that's not going to be that splash of water in the face, that 1/2 percent," Horn said.
Edwards said he's been speaking with lawmakers and he's hopeful.
"I think the stakes are high. Not just for teachers, they are high for children, they are high for communities and the stakes are high for the future of NC," he said.
He doesn't want teachers who love to teach leave it behind because of pay.
"Yeah, I miss the kids. That's why I wanted to be a teacher," Paul Edwards said.