N.C. teachers still on the run

Did you hear the one about the hitchhiker on I-40? He was heading west with a sign reading “Texas Or Bust.” Probably just another North Carolina teacher exploring better opportunities in Houston.

And who could blame him?

The governor and GOP leaders in our legislature want to give teachers a much-needed pay increase, but it’ll cost us all kinds of other crucial resources if their budget makes it into law. Little things. Like support for transportation, text books and teaching assistants. Teaching assistants? Text books? Can they be serious?

No wonder a recent job fair in the Triangle attracted so many educators interested in hearing about better-paying jobs in Houston — better-paying to the tune of $16,000 a year.

Even without that monetary enticement, too many hard-working, skilled North Carolina teachers are leaving their ranks. And who gets hurt? That should be obvious.

Who could fix the situation? That should be obvious too.

When Gov. Pat McCrory recently announced his plan to give our teachers substantial pay hikes — admittedly something that should have happened years ago — he beamed from ear to ear. But what he didn’t divulge was his plan for covering the cost. That came later. Not surprisingly, it was an insult to all North Carolinians who want to see our public schools become competitive with their counterparts regionally, if not nationally. If McCrory isn’t familiar with the saying, “Robbing Peter To Pay Paul,” he’s certainly doing a good job faking it.

Yes, public money is tight these days. Yes, competing needs exist. We need to support efforts to protect our environment. We need to support residents on Medicaid. But we absolutely must do better by our teachers.

I’ve said it before and will repeat it now: Teacher salaries must be raised, but not at the expense of other staples in our educational system. It doesn’t take a genius to see that new revenues must be raised to pay the price. If that means tax hikes, so be it. Painful, yes. But perhaps necessary.

Which taxes? Cigarettes? Alcohol? Tourism? Corporations? I’m not a budget writer, but I would say virtually everything should be on the table.

If we don’t act, things will get worse in our public schools. Teachers will continue to leave. Students will continue to suffer.

And before you know it, there just might be a long line of hitchhikers on I-40 with the eyes of Texas squarely on them.

 

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