600 teachers quit their jobs in Wake County, N.C.
RALEIGH, NC (CNN) — Teachers in North Carolina's largest school system are leaving their jobs in droves.
The Wake County School District says 600 teachers have quit since the school year began.
The district says that's up 41 percent compared to a year ago.
"We're going on years with no raises for teachers, and there needs to be a change," said Kelly Nystrom, a teacher who is departing Underwood Elementary School.
But hundreds of teachers in Wake County aren't willing to wait for that change.
"Now we're having to leave, just to make ends meet," said teacher Britt Morton, who is leaving Apex High School.
A big spike in teachers forced out of the classroom, they say is caused by simple economics.
"Being a teacher is who I am. It's what I think about. It's what I read about. It's what I do. It's who I am, and to have to make the decision to leave that for financial reasons was devastating," Nystrom said.
And over at North Carolina State, they say the future supply of teachers is also dwindling.
"We have students who think, why should I go into a profession where I'm going to be poorly educated? I'm going to lack due process rights, when I can go into another profession where I'm going to be compensated fairly, and I'm going to have a greater deal of autonomy," explained Dr. Michael Maher, with North Carolina State University’s College of Education.
Wake Schools blames stagnant pay, the ending of career status, and the elimination of pay increases for advanced degrees.
"This is an alarm cry. I need somebody to care, and I need somebody to recognize the problem, and I need the people who can do something about it to listen and respond," said Wake County Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Jim Merrill.
State republicans say they are listening, promising to raise starting salaries from $30,800 to $35,000 when the general assembly convenes next month.
"There's no doubt that the base pay of teachers is the first priority. Another priority is to try and get pay raises for all state employees, including all teachers, but I've also got a Constitutional responsibility to balance the budget," said North Carolina's Republican Governor Pat McCrory.