How North Carolinians ought to say “thanks” on Teacher Appreciation Day

Today is Teacher Appreciation Day — an event that will spur many of us to send a brief note of appreciation or chip in toward a gift card. And while most teachers will acknowledge that these annual gestures really do provide a helpful reminder that they are in fact appreciated, the hard truth is that day-to-day evidence in North Carolina classrooms (e.g. low pay, budget cuts, privatization and the proliferation of high stakes testing) points in the opposite direction.

Despite being home to a nationally celebrated early childhood education program, NC-PreK, and having more National Board Certified Teachers than any other state in the nation, North Carolina’s teacher salaries fell more than in any other state between 2000 and 2013. More recently, the job security of “specialty” teachers like art, music and P.E. teachers has also been in limbo throughout 2017 due to new and unfunded class size requirements.

The state’s education funding formula is also one of the most complex and least effective in meeting the needs of low-income students. A 2015 study found that, 80% of voters agree that “state policy and funding decisions are putting greater burdens on our local schools and giving them fewer resources to educate our students.” North Carolinians seem to understand that the state is falling short on its promise of providing an equal and high quality education to all our children.

North Carolina also remains one of the ten lowest states for average teacher pay and expenditures per student and spends less on education compared to surrounding states. And for better or worse, these measures are seen as a key indicator for the quality of our education. As a result, our low rankings reduce our appeal for companies and skilled workers looking to relocate.

If we are really serious about providing a genuine and meaningful “thanks” to our teachers there are some obvious steps we must take.

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