This is Matt Bailey.

One of the wonderful things about being a part of the Chapel Hill – Carrboro community is that you don’t have to convince people of the value of education. So I’m pretty sure I don’t have to sell you on the importance of fully funding our schools, including giving our teachers a long overdue raise. However, I am worried that we’re not fully in touch with just how urgent the problem of teacher pay really is.

I’ve talked with education professionals in other states who faced similar pay gaps in the past, and they tell me we may only have one or two years tops to bring our pay back in line with neighboring states before we feel a real and measureable impact on the quality of instruction in our classrooms.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that we need to go to Raleigh and raise heck until state lawmakers fix this problem. But let’s get real. We don’t have the power to make sure our local schools are Raleigh’s top priority. We do, however, have the power at the town and county level to make sure our schools are our top priority.

I applaud the Orange County Board of Commissioners for increasing the budget for our schools, and I appreciate their work to avoid raising taxes this year. (Believe me; you’ll rarely see me supporting tax increases.) However, I also fear we’re not being realistic about just how big our teacher pay gap has become or how little time we have left to fix it before we feel the impact in our children’s classrooms.

We need to increase the supplement we pay teachers in the Chapel Hill – Carrboro City schools, even if we have to raise the special district tax to do it. It’s hardly the ideal solution, but right now, it’s our best solution to ensure our best teachers stay in Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools.

For a community that prides itself on all things local, if ever there was a time to act locally to give local teachers a raise, now is the time.