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Our state's political leaders are not leading

Strategies for Saving Our Failing Schools
Les Stein

North Carolina's state legislators continue to demonstrate that they have absolutely no clue about what is best for either our children's education or our public schools. The latest fiasco has to do with the differences between the House and Senate versions of the state budget. It is interesting to note that last year no one was interested in giving our teachers a salary increase; however, now that we are in an election year, our legislators are falling all over themselves trying to show their magnanimity toward our educators. Unfortunately, their efforts also show a clear failure to take into consideration the best interests of our public school students and teachers.

The House budget calls for a 6 percent salary increase, which would continue to fund teacher assistants in third grade. The original Senate budget called for an 11 percent raise but it eliminated teacher assistants from the third grade classrooms, while also cutting support to thousands of Medicaid recipients. Since then the Senate has made a few concessions, but the obvious question is whether or not anyone has bothered to ask our teachers which option best serves them, their students. and our state. I would argue that most teachers would accept a smaller raise in order to keep the paraprofessionals in the classroom and support our Medicaid patients. On top of all this, various members of the Senate recently showed their maturity by walking out of a budget meeting that did not suit their agenda.

Why is it so difficult for people like Phil Berger to understand the educational needs of our state? Why does he, along with so many of his Republican colleagues, continue to demonstrate that they simply do not have a clue about what it takes to educate children in our public schools? In the meantime, why is Governor McCrory making an issue of the puppy mill bill? Is this bill really a priority for our state? It is frustrating to sit on the sidelines and watch the fiasco that is defined as budget negotiations by our state's elected leaders. Who are these people representing?

In a few short months the voters of North Carolina will have the opportunity to send a clear message to their state representatives. It is important to make it clear to existing and future elected officials that their first priority is the constituents of their state - especially our children, who will soon be determining our future. It's time to throw out some of the political bums.