Many of us are fortunate enough to remember a special teacher or two who made a difference at a critical point in our education.
Perhaps she recognized something in us that no one else had seen. Maybe he just pushed us harder because he knew we were capable of performing better in a particular subject.
Some of us might have recognized the significance of such a mentor at the time, but a lot of us didn’t realize how important that teacher was until many years later.
North Carolina is fortunate to have produced many such educators, evidenced in part by the improvements the state has seen in recent years in high school graduation rates, increased SAT scores and a decline in high school dropout rates.
But as the state’s public schools have improved, North Carolina has done a poor job of keeping teachers’ salaries on pace. Despite the gains we’ve seen in student achievement, average North Carolina teacher salaries are 46th in the nation. In terms of salary increases, the state ranks dead last – 50th – in teacher raises during the past 10 years.
Maybe that represents good value on the dollar, but more likely it means that unless a teacher has family or other significant ties to North Carolina, the best among them are likely to be attracted to other states, where their compensation would be, on average, $10,000 a year more than they’re making here.
Those teachers – like the ones who played so an important role in the development of so many of us – are a phone call away from considering their options elsewhere.
Republican legislators like to talk about the foolishness of throwing money at education, but unless we compensate our educators on a competitive basis, we will begin losing the important gains our schools have made.