Supplemental income

December 7, 2013

A Boy Scout couldn’t find a more disgruntled group of professionals than teachers.

We have all heard the complaints: The pay is too low; the state’s teaching standards are oppressive, exhausting and counter-productive; there is no ability to discipline in this increasingly litigious society; and, with the loss of tenure, there will be no job security beyond one-, two- and four-year contracts.

Except for job security, those problems exist everywhere, but they appear to be deeper in North Carolina, which is losing its teachers at an alarming rate, a rate that is even more robust in Robeson County.

According to the Department of Public Instruction’s 2012-13 Annual Report on Teachers Leaving the Profession, 14 percent of the state’s teachers either left the profession or headed for greener states following the end of the 2012-13 school year, the highest percentage ever.

The news was worse in Robeson County, where the percentage was just above 18 percent — 273 leaving out of 1,505, the 23rd worst out of 115 school districts. Johnny Hunt, superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County, says one of the problems in this county is the low supplement being paid teachers. Supplements come from local money, and we all know that Robeson County is one of the poorer counties in the state.

The default position, which is faulty, is to blame Republicans, who control the General Assembly and the Governor’s Mansion. It’s true they have scuttled tenure to make it easier to get rid of poor teachers. But the other problems, especially pay, have pre-dated the Republican leadership in Raleigh. Teacher pay in this state has been stagnant for about a decade.

That needs to change. Parents, preferably two of them, are the most important influence in a child’s life, but teachers are close behind. Quality teachers find ways to reach at-risk children, and society depends heavily on that happening.

The fix, we believe, is agonizingly obvious.

This state has raised $3 billion for education through the North Carolina Education Lottery, money that has been distributed to local systems to, among other things, enhance early education, meet capital needs and provide scholarships.

We believe that some of that money should be dedicated to a statewide endowment that would grow every year, providing revenue that could be used for supplements. It isn’t an overnight fix, which is why it is unappetizing to politicians who face re-election so frequently, but eventually the endowment would grow sufficiently to provide supplements that would make North Carolina a destination state for teachers, and not a place to cut their teeth.

It doesn’t take a great thinker to figure this out. It does, however, require action.