What about the Students?

23 Jul

I won’t hesitate to admit, I feel inadequate breaching on the topic of education policy. However, with the looming repercussions ahead for North Carolina in regards to controversial policy actions, I believe public awareness is called for. Even by a novice.

By now, I believe many NC public school advocates are cringing (or enjoying a binge on chocolate to ease emotions) with the forthcoming act. For those who have missed the circulating petitions and statements (such as this letter from the State Superintendent, Dr. June Atkinson), here is, by @NCPolicyWatch, a brief outline of the absurd decisions the North Carolina General Assembly plans to vote on this week.

There’s not much else to say, or rather there are no adequate words to describe the loss that such an act may hold for the future of NC children, not to mention the future of educators in North Carolina. To watch an education system crumble before you, a system devoted to providing quality education to all children, this is breathtaking in the worst possible sense of the word.

The Break Down

10 million dollars is going towards the privatization of schools. This means that the state taxes which residents of North Carolina pay will be diverted towards private school vouchers. This equates to thousands of dollars per child to attend a private school.

The House Chamber this afternoon stated, “North Carolina is 1st in the country for per pupil spending.” Better research ought to occur. North Carolina ranks 48th in our country in spending per pupil.

In addition, the budget cuts teaching assistants by 20%, indirectly increasing class sizes.

Teacher tenure will end potentially allowing for a shift towards a “cheaper” workforce, advanced degree compensation will end signifying the lack of desire to employ “master” educators, tuition prices will increase at the university level for all students, and teachers will encounter an additional year of stagnated pay.

But lets not talk about just “cuts,” there is a $5.1 Million dollar proposition to support TFA initiatives in the state of North Carolina! A positive? Not quite. For issues with such, read here: The Problems with TFA.

A Progressive Policy?

If we are labeling this a “progressive policy,” as Phil Bergen and Pat McCrory rightly call it so, please explain the rationale that such policy is “effective,” yet alone “progressive.” What is progressive about limiting resources and educational opportunities for children of North Carolina? How is “effective policy” cutting support programs and funding for families of disabled children?

But then again, what do I know? I’m just a young educator.

The Debate on Teacher Pay

Statistics show that the average North Carolina teacher pay is 15.7% lower than it was five years ago. This statistic isn’t as alarming as the fallacies which our representatives hold regarding teacher pay scales. McCrory cited recently that “tax reform will give teachers making approximately $40,000 to $45,000 a 1 percent increase in take-home pay,” McCrory said. “That’s good news for teachers.”

However, research would show while $47,000 is the average for teachers, for young educators such is not the case. With a SP1 License, and the absence of Masters/National Board Certification, our pay is significantly lower. Furthermore, in some situations, pay is “frozen,” so we are locked in our BT1 pay scale.

The greatest issue arises when compensation growth isn’t proportionally related to the cost of living increase of 3% in recent years.

What is so difficult to grasp is how our representatives aren’t meriting our job and duty with proportional pay. I could speak further about what educators truly deserve, yet my only discourse is this: “Devote a year to teaching, then you may understand the proper compensation educators deserve. Or at the very least, the respect and dignity we deserve.”

I am a BT1, and by the state of NC, will be labeled one in regards to pay scale for years ahead. I have student loans looming over me. However, I consider myself financially savvy and responsible, ultimately “living within my means.” However, I can’t tell you the number of Kleenex (I admit, I may not be financially savvy in this regard) boxes I have gone through as I explain teary eyed to my parents my frustrations with income. At one point, I took a 2nd job as a waitress to make ends meet my 1st year of teaching (again, I admit. Not the brightest decision.) I often worked from 6AM until late at night for my students making sure I could provide them the innovative, exceptional public education they deserved.

I’m not asking for sympathy from such a story. I’m asking for representatives to understand that passionate educators are all around, yet they must be willing to open their eyes. There are educators who are deeply devoted to students, who are so overly thrilled with all the realms of education (although, maybe not policy at this point) that such hours slip away in the blink of an eye without complaint.

However, isn’t such an effort to be merited? Respected? To come with some inclination of dignity?

I doubt a representative will read this, but I ask this, “if I were your daughter, would you want this for me? If I were your child’s teacher, would you want this for them?”

What are educators to do?

Is There a Need for Plan B?

Failure by politicians to understand true priorities is heartbreaking. True public school support should be a priority, or rather, true educational support should be a priority. Understanding that a child’s education is the utmost importance to our nation is significant. Understanding that education reform can’t occur overnight or instantaneously is equally as significant. Understanding the key to unlocking “educational excellence,” is public school support and long-term investment, now that is significant.

I know numerous dedicated, passionate, driven educators who toil attempting to create an incredible education for their students. They treat students as their own children, providing a progressive, engaging, and empowering education so as to foster a love of learning and citizenship within them, with hopes that they will positively impact our country.

As such an educator, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I am blessed to say I have turned my passion into a career. I am blessed to help the future learn.

Yet, educators are fearful, and unfortunately we are left to wonder. Is there a more respected career route? Is there a Plan B that needs to be considered? Or is it as simple as uprooting ones life, and starting anew elsewhere?

Who will be left to educate your children if you are driving away educators, funding, support, and respect? To further address the issues, Diane Ravitch (@DianeRavitch), a well-known advocate of education, provides, as I believe it to be, a cohesive statement regarding such here: A Tragic Day for Public Education

What about the Students?

By far the most difficult topic of all, and for such, the reason it is addressed last: What about the students?

How can we call this act, “Excellence in Public Education?” How is this “branding strategy” funding public education adequately?

I will address this with a series of rhetorical questions:

Where are the student opportunities?

Where is the support students deserve?

Where are the student resources that they deserve?

Where will the quality instruction students deserve originate from?

How will quality educators be found? Where will “master” educators come from?

One Final Thought

Tenure is an issue. Teacher pay is an issue. However, the greatest issue of all from this act, if passed, is that thousands of North Carolina public school students will lose out on an education they deserve, at the expense of “branding” our state. Our state is in desperate need of a uniquely constructive, practical approach towards stimulating the public education system. If such does not occur, thousands of public school students will lose out on an excellent education because our representatives have given up on public education.

It’s heartbreaking.

Now excuse me as I find a box of Kleenex, chocolate, and am left to wonder, “what about the students?”

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4 Responses to “What about the Students?”

  1. Richard D. July 24, 2013 at 2:20 am #

    I am an independent school educator and relieved and very glad that New Hampshire just voted _not_ to fund private education through a voucher system and at least keeping the funds, sadly inadequate, where they belong in public education.

    What has been also cut back for our dedicated teachers is the retirement possibilities – higher age requirements and pay in, lower payback in the end..

    The cry for a talented future workforce by these same legislators and leaders rings hollow with the lack of support to fund the talented teachers and support staff that we do have and need.

    • tchrms July 26, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

      I am relieved that New Hampshire has done such for you! At the least, they aren’t abandoning the public school system (despite insufficient support or funding.)

      It makes you wonder where educators will stand in 10 years, and who will teach. How can we support students if we don’t support educators?

  2. Lorraine Smith July 25, 2013 at 5:16 am #

    Sadly, NC may lose talented young teachers who move to out of state school systems where their skills will be valued. I wonder what the impact on graduate programs in education will be. Without a pay differential that does, in part, assist teachers with student loan repayment, will these graduate programs dwindle in size and number? What will be required to resurrect graduate programs when future legislators recognize the value of advanced degrees? Teaching is the most expensive job you will ever have.

    • tchrms July 26, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

      Great questions Lorraine! I wondered the same, and am trying so hard to rationalize what has happened. I’m at a loss though…

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