Education decisions affect all of us

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Nearly everyone in nearly every form of government in North Carolina is looking for ways to improve education. But steep challenges face leaders at every level.

We’re losing good, often great, teachers from all over the state.

North Carolina’s largest school system – Wake County Public Schools – has seen its teacher turnover rate increase by 40 percent over last year. Some of the system’s better educators are taking higher-paying jobs in Virginia, which is heavily recruiting in North Carolina. Others are leaving the profession altogether because they say salary increases have not kept up with the cost of living.

Those departures have had a ripple effect elsewhere. Teachers in Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools and Edgecombe County Public Schools likely will be courted to fill vacanies in Wake County. That presents new challenges to administrators in the Twin Counties.

Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican leaders in the N.C. General Assembly have pledged to make increasing teachers’ salaries a priority. But as the General Assembly prepares to convene next week for its “short session,” the state already faces a revenue shortfall of about $445 million. Even if the legislature uses reserve funds to make up that deficit, it still will have a hard time finding more money for teachers’ pay.

Closer to home, the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education wants to increase the local supplement for teachers from 6 percent to 9 percent in fiscal 2014-15. The system is compelled to raise that bonus just to remain competitive with surrounding systems such as Wilson County Public Schools, where the suplement is expected to increase to 10 percent.

Even as the school board prepares its case for a higher supplement, Nash County commissioners are looking at dramatic changes to the makeup of the school system itself. Commissioners this week voted to pay an outside consultant $22,000 to look at the possible implications of splitting the Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools system.

Some commissioners have said they simply want to see what such a study uncovers, but most of us would be greatly surprised if a consultant who’s receiving $20,000 comes back with a recommendation that doesn’t match the leanings of the customer who’s footing the bill.

All of those issues greatly affect families, local industries and the future of our community. It would behoove all of us to pay careful attention to how leaders at all levels of government are approaching education. They have the future of our children – and our quality of life – in their hands.