As Republicans in the General Assembly look at tax reform to make North Carolina more competitive with neighboring states when recruiting businesses and industry, they should also work to improve our public education system with more competitive salaries for teachers.
A report released this week by the National Education Association showed that North Carolina’s teachers rank an embarrassing 46th among the country’s 50 states in pay. The report determined that pay has stagnated because of the recent economy, and that supplemental dollars are disbursed unevenly on the local level. This sorry mix is pushing better teachers out of North Carolina or into other careers.
The consequences should be obvious, but we will provide the ABC’s: Without adequate compensation to attract and retain excellent teachers, some of our children — particularly those who are at risk and with little parental guidance — will suffer in the classroom, and this state’s taxpayers will eventually pick up the tab.
There simply is no better investment than our children — and North Carolina is failing miserably here.
And don’t get sidetracked. Every superintendent in this state could work without a salary or the possibility of a bonus and it wouldn’t free up enough dollars to make much of a difference in the way we pay teachers. This isn’t about that.
What is needed is our own Manhattan Project.
How about this? Redirect lottery money — or at least a sizable chunk of it — toward an endowment that would grow and generate a permanent revenue stream for supplements that could be distributed from the state level. How that could be done could be debated, but done properly it could turn North Carolina into a destination state for quality teachers. As long as supplements depend on local dollars, poor counties like Robeson will continue to be at a disadvantage when trying to recruit quality teachers — and the educational gap between our state’s richest and poorest counties will widen.
During his successful election campaign, Gov. Pat McCrory, who so far has shown a disdain for the status quo, said he believes teacher pay should be linked to classroom achievement, a sentiment we share, but a goal that is slippery at best. As is always the case when education reform is floated, the critics began their whining, saying that local autonomy will only ensure favoritism.
This is Robeson County, so we won’t dismiss that possibility.
But what is clear is a different approach is needed. Although graduation rates are improving, there is little to suggest that our graduates are being prepared for higher education or the workforce.
The time for excuses is yesterday. Pay now or pay later.