When single mom Callie Hammond wants to buy something for her daughters, she says she has to choose between spending money on them or on the high school English students she teaches each day.
Hammond, a teacher in North Carolina for 22 years, says she buys supplies for her students with her own money. She hasn’t gotten new textbooks since 2009. If she wants new ones, she says she has to go to other high schools and beg.
“I’m at a school trying to make better lives for those kids, but I’m not able to go out and make a better life for my own kids. And that's not fair,” Hammond says in a video released by the progressive advocacy group Progress North Carolina.
According to an analysis by the National Education Association, North Carolina ranked near the bottom of U.S. states in expenditures per student for 2012-2013. A separate study found that North Carolina teachers' pay was among the lowest for public school educators.
“I would say if you’re in North Carolina, it’s not worth it to become a teacher at this point. It’s really not,” Hammond says in the video.
June Atkinson, North Carolina’s superintendent of public instruction, said the state has not supported its teachers.
"North Carolina has not invested in its teaching force as it should," Atkinson told WTVD.
Cuts to education have become a central issue in the race for U.S. Senate in North Carolina between Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and her Republican opponent, North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis. A recent ad accused Tillis of cutting $500 million in education funding, forcing teachers to pay for school supplies on their own. Tillis has released his own ad, saying he actually increased school funding and teacher pay.
For Hammond, it’s discouraging to see legislators so far removed from the classroom cut education funding.
“The legislature that we have now has made it abundantly clear that they think public schools are broken,” Hammond says in the video. “They really have no ideas what’s going on in the schools.
“While we say every day: ‘Education is the key to future success,’ our state doesn’t believe it.”
Watch Hammond's story above.