Commentary

McCrory: “Marketability” of skills should be factor in teacher pay

RPeople_16_Teacher_Blackboardaleigh’s News & Observer has obtained a recording of a virtual, two-minute talk that Gov. Pat McCrory gave in January to GOP legislators (the Guv was apparently fighting a cold — what he called the “Carolina Crud” — which may explain why he wasn’t there in person). The talk was about the Guv’s education agenda and while it contains little that we haven’t heard before, a couple of things stand out with respect to the issue of teacher pay:

Number One is that McCrory is still fixated on new teachers. He calls for raising the floor to $35,000 but says nothing about veteran teachers largely neglected by last year’s convoluted pay raise scheme.

Number Two and perhaps most troubling and perplexing is the Guv’s statement that teacher pay should, in part, be a function of the “marketability” of the teacher’s skills. What does that mean?

If it means that the teacher could get a better deal in another state to be a fourth grade teacher than she can get in North Carolina, well then it would seem that just about all of our teachers have great “marketability.” Providing raises on such grounds would make some sense.

If, on the other hand, it means (as one would suspect) that McCrory wants to start paying math teachers or computer science teachers (or football coaches) more than amazing veteran Kindergarten teachers, English teachers or Special Ed teachers because they might be able to earn more in the “free market,” then that is a potential problem.

While math, science (and sports!) are important aspects of public education, they should not be valued more simply because they happen to require skills that are currently prized in private industry. Public education is about more than producing new worker bees; it’s also about producing well-rounded citizens who can read and think for themselves. Indeed, it’s also often about helping kids master critical social skills their parents are unable to impart and/or just helping impoverished kids survive in their sixth school in as many years.

The bottom line: As with so many other things the Governor says about education, this “pay for marketability” scheme may make a good soundbite, but when you dig a little deeper you quickly find that there’s less there than meets the ear.

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