If there is will, there’s a way to up supplements

If talk could be converted into dollar bills, then teachers everywhere would be well-paid.

While it’s not that easy, paying teachers better through supplements is not as difficult as some make it.

Currently there is conversation on how to boost supplements for teachers in the Public Schools of Robeson County, which on average are about $1,500 behind the state average and also trail their peers in some neighboring counties, putting us at risk for pilfering.

A new member of the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County, Brian Freeman, an exceptional teacher before becoming an assistant principal, was lured away from Robeson County because of a higher supplement.

So how can more money be found in order to keep our teachers and recruit new ones? Currently about 50 teachers are needed to have one in every classroom when school begins again on Aug. 29.

Consider this: The combined budgets of Robeson County and our school system is close to $400 million, so surely there is a way to redirect literally a fraction of that money to boost local supplements.

We will offer two suggestions, but more could be easily identified. What is needed is political will.

Robeson County now has about $23 million in reserves, money that is sitting idly but is necessary in case of an emergency. What if the county plucked $5 million from the reserves, established an endowment and skimmed off the profit each year to finance local supplements? Earnings of 6 percent, which isn’t unreasonable, would generate $300,000 a year — and the principle amount would be untouched.

With 1,600 teachers, $300,000 gets exhausted rather quickly, so a second source of revenue might be needed.

While we understand that the suggestion of a tax increase can be political suicide, if packaged correctly it doesn’t have to be. If the commissioners were to raise taxes by 2 cents, that would generate about $1.2 million a year, pushing the available amount of money to fund supplements to about $1.5 million a year — enough to boost local supplements by almost $1,000 for each teacher, still short of the state average, but better than most counties in the region, giving us a recruiting advantage.

Now there might be better ways, but the point remains that this is achievable with genuine leadership.

The only fix for so much of what ails Robeson County, especially poverty and high crime, is to educate our young people, and while there are a lot factors to that equation, putting quality teachers into every classroom is essential. We talk a lot about the value of education, but when it comes time to invest in it, that we-are-too-poor to do better is too often invoked.

It’s not that hard.

We have offered some ideas, but others might be better. Let’s hear them — and take a progressive step toward better educating our children.

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