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Elections should not determine the quality of our schools

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As 2013 comes to a close it seems rather clear that many members of North Carolina's General Assembly - especially those who recently voted to make drastic changes to our educational system - are re-evaluating their earlier decisions. It is worth asking why they are reconsidering the very ideas they so vehemently supported only a few months ago, such as no pay raises and eliminating salary increases for teachers who earn a graduate degree. Could it have something to do with public opinion? More importantly, do our legislators think that their earlier decisions might jeopardize their bids for re-election?

In recent weeks there has been growing momentum in favor of giving North Carolina's public school teachers a significant pay increase and reinstating the ill conceived idea to eliminate a salary increase for those who earn their graduate degrees. Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest has recently said that he is on a mission to convince the legislators to fund both initiatives without raising the state's budget. Governor McCrory has also made it clear that he wants to see improvements in teacher salaries and that he will carefully consider the recommendations of his recently appointed Teacher Advisory Council. Where were they when the teachers needed them?

There is a reason why North Carolina's students are not among the top ten states in academic achievement. It has nothing to do with their potential - it has everything to do with the priorities of their elected officials. Ever since Governor Jim Hunt left office North Carolina's public school compass has been broken. We simply don't have a viable strategic plan, and we certainly have not had the kind of leadership that will help us regain our focus on public school education. The shifting momentum relative to teacher salaries simply highlights the fact that we have no viable direction.

The new year offers us an opportunity to change the way we are doing business. First and foremost, we need to take education out of the politicians' hands. They simply do not understand what it takes to create a world class school system. The sooner we agree that this is the most critical step in giving our children the education they deserve, the sooner we will have a competitive public school system.

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