By Joel Orr Joel Orr taught high school English for six years and is currently enrolled full-time towards his Master's of English. He is the editor of and sole contributor to abirdonawire.com.

A Teacher’s Letter To The General Assembly, Part II

By Joel Orr Posted June 12, 2013 at 11:15 am

You can find Joel on Twitter at @abirdonawire, or read Part I of his letter, here

Dear Members of the NC General Assembly,

So I was flipping through the House budget proposal that started popping up on local news sites Friday, and I noticed a section within the proposal that struck me as ironic and frighteningly hilarious.  It begins on page 63, if you’d like to read along at home.  For your convenience, I have copied and pasted a portion of the text below.

48  ”§ 115C-562.2. Scholarship grants.

49  (a) The Authority shall make available no later than February 1 annually applications to eligible students for the award of scholarship grants to attend any nonpublic school.

Let’s skip a few (dozen) lines and touch on how much money these scholarships, made up of public funds, will offer students to attend private schools, shall we?

No scholarship grant shall exceed four thousand two hundred dollars ($4,200) per year per eligible student, and no scholarship grant shall exceed the required tuition and fees for the nonpublic school the eligible student will attend.

I would just like to be clear on this – you (members of the NC House) think it’s a good idea to use public funds to send public school students to private schools.

. . . what?

It would strike me as patently absurd to walk into Wal-Mart, be handed a $500 gift card to Target by a Wal-Mart employee, and be shooed out the door while the same employee then handed me driving directions to my nearest Target.  I can’t imagine Wal-Mart managers thinking,

“Yep.  This business model can’t lose.”

Right?

Now, to be intellectually honest, I won’t ignore that the scholarship grants are designated for students who reside in low-income homes (to qualify, household income must be below the 133% income level required to qualify for free and reduced lunch).  At first blush, this section can read as Robin Hood-esque, but I just have to ask:

Why not devote these public funds (which, over two years, total $50 million) to the public schools and improve schools for all students?  Why cut master’s pay ($19 million) and TA positions ($50 million), only to turn around and spend that money on private schools?

Am I missing something?

As mentioned, I notice this budget proposal still includes the phasing out of master’s pay for teachers, starting in 2014-2015.  I also would like to draw attention, if I may be so bold, to lines 18 and 19 of page 285.  The lines list monthly salaries of North Carolina teachers who do not have master’s degrees (“A” Teachers).

Years of Experience                “A” Teachers               NBPTS Certification

0-2                                           3,080                           N/A

3-5                                           3,080                           3,450

Now, I’m no math guy, but the numbers in the middle column seem strikingly similar to each other, even with five years of gained experience for North Carolina teachers.

So, not only does this budget proposal no longer reward teachers who will earn higher degrees, making them even more highly qualified, this budget continues the trend of not providing raises to teachers the state already employs.

Members of the NC General Assembly, I ask you my second question now:

If you do not plan to provide incentive for teachers to earn degrees of higher education, and you do not plan to provide incentive for young teachers to remain within the public school system, and you find it appropriate to pay families to take their students out of our public schools,

What is your plan to improve our public schools?

Please, members of the General Assembly, feel free to comment on this article or contact me via email.

Thank you for your time,

-Joel

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