Tuesday, June 23, 2015

NC Legislators Shafting Education

Pretty soon, if you want a decent education for your child in the state of North Carolina, you might have to come to grips with the concept of homeschooling.

Not that our teachers are incapable. Our Daughter just graduated high school and received, for the most part, an excellent education that has prepared her well for college. Our sons will be in high school soon enough and then heading off to college themselves, also with heads full of knowledge thanks to their many dedicated teachers (and despite the few who shouldn't be teaching). They are nearly beyond the point at which the vivisection of public education by the North Carolina Legislature can impact them directly. Until, of course, they have their own children.

The disdain for public education by the Republican leadership of North Carolina -- Republicans control both the House and Senate with commanding majorities, in addition to the Governorship --  is palpable. From salaries, to support, to supplies, to benefits, to basic respect, the state of North Carolina is failing our children by failing our schools.

Competitive teacher salaries? Who needs them? In fact, North Carolina celebrates bloated middle management over the value of line-level teachers and school staff.

For instance, the NC Department of Public Instruction hires people in at salaries with a basement of $57,000 to serve as Education Testing/Accountability Consultants. Qualified applicants could draw a starting salary north of $90,000. According to ncpublicschools.org, the basement salary for a Bachelor-degree certified teacher is $33,000. A similarly certified teacher with 25 or more years of experience qualifies for a maximum starting salary of only $50,000. That's a $22,000-$40,000 gap between the teachers charged with directly educating our children and the number crunchers dreaming up tests to measure the effectiveness of our teachers.

And it isn't as though North Carolina employs merely a handful of Education Consultants. A quick search using a handy tool provided by the News & Observer shows almost a full eight screens -- 197 individual positions -- of employees with the title Education Consultant Levels I, II or III. Perhaps, in a state made up of 100 counties, 197 consultants on various topics of public education isn't too extreme, but it makes me wonder why we then employ 76 Education Program Directors who are supposed to serve as the lead authorities for their designated topics. Why do we have more than double the number of consultants than actual directors, all of them drawing salaries beyond the reach of even the most seasoned teacher?

So, what is a state government to do when all this money gets tossed at education yet our overall testing scores consistently put North Carolina close to last place in the Union? Punish the schools, of course. The bloated middle management at the Department of Public Instruction, all too frequently mirrored at the local district levels, couldn't possibly be to blame. Could it? We need all those people milling about, pushing their own agendas, developing new ways to learn math, developing new tests to justify their high salaries. What would we do without them?

Oh, that's right.

We might be able to fund higher salaries for teachers. We might be able to hire additional teacher assistant positions. We might be able to buy proper textbooks. We might be able to fund modern computer labs. We might be able to get students out of trailers and into proper buildings. We might be able to fund personalized reading programs that target the needs of students rather than implementing a bastardized form of the Lexile program which, by its own descriptive content at its website, is meant to be a tool for teachers, not a systematic approach to governing all reading programs. We might be able eliminate the need for teachers and local administrators to help justify the pet programs of their higher ups and, instead, offer meaningful feedback on the effectiveness of tools offered to them without fear of political retribution.

There's a whole lot we might be able to accomplish if our Legislators stopped playing politics with our tax dollars and focused on funding the learning process.




2015 Mark Feggeler