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TeachersAccording to the market fundamentalist think tanks, North Carolina teachers are not really underpaid or overworked. Over the last several years, their websites have been replete with articles informing us that North Carolina has a comparatively low cost of living, that teaching is not a year-round profession and other such arguments that supposedly should allay concerns about teacher well-being.

Meanwhile, over in the real world, the evidence to the contrary continues to accumulate. One would hope that the latest news from Wake County (“Wake County sees an ‘alarming’ rise in teacher resignations”) would finally convince these folks of the error of their arguments. After all, here is a classic “free market” moment — a point in time in which people are acting on the ground based on rules of “supply and demand.”

This is from coverage of the story at WRAL.com:

“Teachers in Wake County have been leaving their jobs mid-year at a greater rate than in years past,” Assistant Superintendent Doug Thilman said. “Given the flat pay scale over the past few years, the recent legislated removal of both career status and higher pay for teachers with graduate degrees, increased teacher turnover has been expected.”

Don’t be surprised, however, if the groups find some new way to dutifully parrot the Pope-McCrory line in the coming days and come up with some creative explanations as to why so many teachers are leaving. And you can bet just about anything that their take won’t include a call for across-the-board raises.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that any hope for meaningful across-the-board pay raises for North Carolina teachers is withering on the political vine like a strawberry patch nipped by a mid-April freeze. Two new editorials spell this out.

As the Charlotte Observer explains in “A troubling sign for teacher pay,” it’s clear that a new task force on the issue that had gotten off to a promising start will now fail to deliver what’s really needed. As the editorial noted about the latest task force report :

“It’s a clear sign that despite assurances from Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican leaders that N.C. teachers should be paid more, most of them will be neglected again this year. Read More

Open-letter2011One of the many “make-do-with-less,” “up-by-their-bootstraps” creations of the modern public education system in North Carolina is something known as the “school improvement team” or “S.I.T.” These are simple, common sense groups created by state law that include “the principal of each school, representatives of the assistant principals, instructional personnel, instructional support personnel, and teacher assistants assigned to the school building, and parents of children” and that have the eminently reasonable and unsurprising objective of improving schools.

Recently and much to the group’s credit, the School Improvement Team at Chapel Hill’s Culbreth Middle School (a bipartisan group, by the way) crafted an open letter to Gov. McCrory about the state of education in North Carolina and the state’s dwindling investments. We offer it here as a potential inspiration to other dedicated S.I.T.’s around the state:

“Dear Governor McCrory,

The bipartisan School Improvement Team at Culbreth Middle School respectfully requests that you act in the best interests of all North Carolina’s children by advocating for a greater investment in public education.

After years of bipartisan failure to increase their salaries, North Carolina’s teachers are paid $10,000 below the national average.  Many of our teachers struggle to support their families and must devote time to second jobs to make ends meet.  Read More

Shell gameHundreds of school administrators gathered in Raleigh yesterday to review the state of public education and, not surprisingly, Gov. McCrory dodged the event and sent an assistant to what promised to be a not-terribly-friendly venue. That former Gov. Jim Hunt was speaking (he got a standing ovation at one point) probably helped guarantee that the Guv would have a “conflict” and decline the invitation to appear.

Another probable reason for sending aide Eric Guckian was the message he was forced to deliver — namely, that things are unlikely to improve in the education funding department anytime soon. According to AP reporter Emery Dalesio’s story, any significant improvements in educator pay beyond the bumps recently proposed for starting teachers will take “years” and will only occur “if state finances allow” — i.e. when Budget Director Pope assents. In other words, the beatings will continue until morale improves.

Of course, this is an absurd and utterly dishonest position. North Carolina could easily have a great deal of money to address many important needs (including the abysmal pay it provides to teachers and many other state employees) if McCrory and legislative leaders had merely chosen not to slash taxes on wealthy individuals and profitable corporations in recent years to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Simply put, the administration’s rap is like that of a father with a gambling or drinking addiction who refuses to make eye contact as he tells his family that there will be no new clothes or shoes this year because “finances are tight.” No wonder the Guv found something else to do yesterday.

Pat McCrory 4Let’s hope Gov. Pat McCrory’s latest statements on teacher pay (namely that he wants a “long-term strategy” that will lead to pay hikes for all teachers in both K-12 and higher education) reflect an attitude and policy shift for the administration rather than just another example of the governor talking out of both sides of his mouth and telling an audience what it wants to hear in measured and backtrackable terms.

It’s got to be one or the other, however, because it certainly isn’t what McCrory and his allies have been fighting for over the last several years. Indeed, it’s one of the biggest and most under-reported scandals of present-day North Carolina politics that the governor and conservative legislative leaders have repeatedly been allowed by a distracted news media to lament the fact that teacher salaries have been essentially frozen for years.

Earth to Governor McCrory, Speaker Tillis and Senate President Berger: Read More