A letter that is too long to print but worth sharing:
I am a retired North Carolina High School principal who also taught English for 12 years.
When the General Assembly disbanded the Teaching Fellows program, I was very sad. Teaching Fellows were consistently the most qualified and enthusiastic teachers I hired, and every spring when I helped finalize the high school seniors my high school was sending as a scholarship candidate, I was ecstatic because these were the students I wanted teaching my children four years down the road.
I keep thinking of Dean Smith, Roy Williams, and Mark Gottfried and wondered how their programs would fare if the best and most talented student-athletes were denied a scholarship to play ball at Carolina or State. Why would North Carolina’s elected officials deliberately tell the state’s most gifted potential teachers that they were totally unworthy of state educational support.
The next year unfolded and the General Assembly continued to cut the number of teachers supported by the state. Our elected leaders then had the audacity to tell my neighbors that they were merely reducing the overall allotment of funds each district would receive, and it was each district’s responsibility to determine where to make the cuts. I can only believe that these elected leaders think the state’s citizens are stupid and that my subdivision doesn’t realize that teachers ARE the bulk of each districts budget. `
This morning I read that the Senate’s budget proposes eliminating the pay step every teacher in North Carolina has had a chance to realize for over 40 years by earning a master’s degree to supplement their instructional foundation. No single event in my educational past improved my teaching as much as the master’s degree in English that I earned taking classes during the summer and at night over five years. Knowing that my pay would rise because I had improved my skills was part of the compact that existed between teachers and the parents of their students.
For several years now I have come to believe that our state’s legislators simply hated public school teachers and were trying to develop ways to discourage the most talented North Carolina students from going into teaching. It felt like their plan was to dilute the quality of North Carolina’s teaching corps in order to lower overall public school instructional quality. I now think their efforts are more focused than that.
Every morning I drive past the shiny, spacious, crisp new Wal-Mart that is being built in north Chatham County across the street from my neighborhood. I know that this facility will need to hire lots and lots of new employees. Clearly the General Assembly members will feel good when North Carolina’s best and brightest greet them with, “Hi. Welcome to Wal-Mart.”
David J. Thaden