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The Public Should Not Be Treated Like Fools

Strategies for Saving Our Failing Schools
Dr. Les Stein

The public often tolerates much more than it should from its elected officials. The one thing it should never tolerate is deceit, shrouded by disrespect. Unfortunately, the North Carolina General Assembly's recently approved budget is a clear example of both disrespect and deceit. There is absolutely no doubt that the budget was completed by a small group of legislators - specifically those with power - because there is no significant evidence that the minority wing of either the House or Senate had any meaningful input. Bottom line - our state is represented by people who have clearly demonstrated that power corrupts.

The budget, which the governor said he will sign, calls for an average salary increase of seven percent for teachers. Unfortunately, the pay increase is almost exclusively focused on entry-level teachers with less than five years of classroom experience. The increase comes at the expense of longevity pay, which now ends because a six-step system will replace the existing 37-step schedule. This move clearly shows that our legislative leaders have absolutely no respect for teachers; especially those with significant classroom experience. More importantly, much of the budget does not guarantee the future of our public school system. For instance, the budget supports paying for teacher assistants in the upcoming year but there are absolutely no guarantees that there will be money for these positions in future years. We can rest assured that the original plan for eliminating teacher assistants will be back on the table once the election is over. It is also important to know that teachers who decide to seek a graduate degree, to improve their skills as educators, will no longer receive additional pay for their efforts.

The members of the legislative majority basically threw our teachers a bone. They were hoping it would alleviate the many complaints about teacher salaries, and remove the negative attention from a legislature that is seemingly clueless about public school education. In doing so our elected officials have demonstrated an utter lack of respect for teachers and educators in general. Most importantly, they continue to show that they simply don't understand why education is so important to the future of our state. Bottom line - the legislature's power brokers are treating us like fools and they need to be replaced during the upcoming elections.

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