An editorial in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer (“In NC a teacher shortage develops by design”) tells it like it is:
“One would have thought, when Republican lawmakers raised starting teacher pay in North Carolina to $35,000, that they’d marched into classrooms in North Carolina with sacks of gold and silver. Of course, that salary is hardly a king’s ransom, and teachers with more experience didn’t fare so well. The state remains in the bottom half of the country in teacher compensation.
Teachers also are skeptical of these GOP lawmakers, who have so cheated public education at all levels and undermined conventional public schools with a too-rapid expansion of charter schools and public “scholarships” for children in private schools.
So it should come as no surprise that enrollment in the 15 schools of education in the public university system has dropped – by 30 percent since 2010.
This forecasts a deepening teacher shortage in North Carolina, one that will impact tens of thousands of families.”
After refuting the notion that the decline is driven merely by the fact that young people are more interested in “making a lot of money as opposed to making a difference,” the editorial concludes this way:
“Republicans are going to reap what they sowed with their lackluster support of public education. Unfortunately, the rest of us are going to reap it, too. When there are not enough teachers to get the job done, and classrooms are overloaded and children are being deprived, the political rhetoric from the GOP about lowering taxes on the wealthy and big business for the good of North Carolina isn’t going to pass muster with the people of North Carolina, who support more investment in public education.”
The bottom line: Would-be teachers have eyes and ears. They see and hear how low the morale is amongst a large percentage of current educators — not just because of low pay, but also because of the Right’s multi-front attack on the profession and public education generally. Plenty of people are willing to make sacrifices to become teachers, but understandably, fewer and fewer are willing to endure the constant attacks on the very idea of public education (e.g. the effort to eliminate their professional association, the derisive drumbeat of attacks on “government schools,” the deceptive snake oil “competition” provided by unaccountable voucher and charter schools, the efforts by the religious right to dismantle the teaching of actual science).
Sadly, despite the crocodile tears being shed in some corners, the new numbers are exactly what the ideologues on the right had in mind decades ago when they commenced their effort to dismantle and privatize our public schools. It’s going to take sustained commitment over the next couple of decades for caring and thinking people to roll back the tide.