Last week, as public schools across the state prepared to open for the new school year — mostly in person, this time — Democratic leaders in the state legislature called on fellow Republicans to join in. them to provide more financial resources to recruit and retain educators. More than 11,000 public school positions across the state remain unfilled.
Closing this gap would mean – in practice – increasing the state education budget beyond what has already been set with provisions for additional salary increases for teachers.
According to the Education Law Center, North Carolina is one of the worst US states when it comes to public school funding. Only Arizona and Washington, DC ranked below North Carolina in the fair distribution of public school funding.
Let’s not mince words: As the state sits on a $6.5 billion budget surplus and the Republican-led legislature squanders tax money fighting a court order to boost the government’s budget education, there’s no reason North Carolina can’t afford a first-class education for every public school student.
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But “it’s more than money,” Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, a Democrat from Wake County, said last week. “Educators are underpaid, overworked and, above all, undervalued.”
And the lack of appreciation is perhaps best exemplified by the culture war waged against public school teachers by conservative activists in an attempt to take control of the curriculum and focus it on their own ideology – at the expense of others. They do this by portraying public school teachers as “woke” Marxists who want to radicalize students.
Fox News “comedian” Greg Gutfeld recently called public school teachers “KKKs with free summers.” He also called them corrupt, lazy and incompetent.
These depictions and those similar to them are inaccurate and unfair.
In Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson’s forthcoming book, he reportedly wrote that schools should “require proficiency in reading, writing, and math from grades one through five.” In these classes, we don’t need to teach social studies. We don’t need to teach science. We certainly don’t need to talk about equity and social justice.
But last week, Blue rightly asked, “Should you demonize teachers for teaching some aspect of civics, so kids understand how their government is organized in elementary school? Should you demonize them for trying to teach them rudimentary science concepts when they’re young? »
Of course, reading, writing and math are essential skills. But teaching the scientific method to children increases their ability to absorb information as they grow. They should also learn financial literacy, history, and social studies.
And they should learn to get along with their peers and manage their developing emotions.
They should learn that there are matters on which the American people are not united, including religion and politics, without favoring any particular doctrine or policy.
They should learn what they need to function in the real world, not just as employees, but as responsible, thoughtful citizens who engage in lifelong learning.
This will necessarily include information with which some parents do not agree.
And that will require competent, experienced teachers who know their stuff.
This, in turn, requires a living wage and community support instead of partisan criticism.
Public education should not be a partisan issue; and we know that’s not quite the case. Many strong conservatives send their children to public schools and enjoy the results. They just need to urge their representatives to do the same – or vote for new ones who will.
Meanwhile, in hopeful news as classes resume, Guilford County schools have been recognized by the Biden administration for investing US bailout funds in intensive tutoring and other programs. summer learning.
Congratulations to local administrators, teachers and volunteers and best wishes for a safe and productive year.
There is no problem that our schools cannot handle with the right support, in resources and in spirit, from the legislature and the public.