Berger speech compares TAs to typewriters

Posted November 6, 2015
Updated November 19, 2015

Republican Senate leader Phil Berger made blunt remarks about public school reform at a recent gathering held by Best NC, a business-backed education advocacy group.

He suggested “scrapping schools of education” and likened investing in teacher assistants to investing in manual typewriters.

“The stakes are too high to be risk- and conflict-adverse when it comes to education policy,” he argued.

Berger explained the state should either try to improve the programs that aren't working or no longer invest in them. He pointed to the UNC schools of education as an example.

“[They] need to do a better job of preparing teachers for the classroom,” he said. “We either need to fix our schools of education in North Carolina or scrap them in favor of new, different approaches to teacher preparation.”

Berger also talked about cutting back on teacher assistants. This year, the Senate budget called for cutting thousands of teacher assistant positions – up to 8,500 by some estimates – in favor of smaller class sizes.

After long negotiations, the final spending plan kept money for TAs intact. Still, Berger argues that TAs don’t have a meaningful impact on student performance.

“We will spend almost $400 million on TAs next year,” he said. “I equate it to an office supply business that chooses to continue to invest in manual typewriters.”

His full speech is posted on his Facebook page, where several people commented with angry responses.

“Manual typewriters don't give hugs, dry tears, work one on one with struggling students, run copies, relieve teachers for whatever reason,” wrote Heather Robbins.

Another person bashed him for suggesting that state leaders should apply business principles to public education.

"We should TOTALLY run schools just like a business. They are EXACTLY the same in EVERY way! You, sir, are a genius," wrote Matt Webster.

This report first appeared on WUNC/North Carolina Public Radio as part of their education coverage. Reema Khrais was the 2014 Fletcher Fellow focused on Education Policy Reporting. The Fletcher Fellowship is a partnership between WUNC and UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication funded in part by the Fletcher Foundation.


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  • Ronnie Peacock Nov 12, 2015
    user avatar

    You would think a "journalist" would know what qualifies as a comparison. The headline is misleading, but then again, that was probably intentional on the part of this "Journalist." (I place the word journalist in quotation marks because real ones are few and far between these days.)

  • William James Nov 11, 2015
    user avatar

    Does anyone else see the "elephant in the room"? The problem with the public schools and universities, is that they aren't concerned at all. 0% about teaching the kids how to "actually do something of worth in todays job market". They need to cut High School because its a total waste of time, money, and gives teens way too much free time to get in trouble with the law, pregnant, injured, etc. College Track kids don't need to be taking classes that they will have to take again in college and Tech/CC track kids should be spending time learning a marketable trade at age 15-18 vs. wasting time memorizing US history, Civics, Eng III, or other non sense no one ever remembers or uses in real life! And, this isn't may opinion folks, they actually researched post HS retention and almost no remembers the junk from HS.

  • Terry Lightfoot Nov 11, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Charlie Watkins, you have no factual proof that TA jobs are 'patronage' jobs, that's a ridiculous statement. Try and teach a class by your self with 31 pupils, TAs do more than 'wipe noses'.
    Berger just reinforces how the GA Repubs feel about education in general.

  • Janni Cone Nov 11, 2015
    user avatar

    And this, people, is why our education system is broken. He did NOT directly compare TAs to typewriters. He compared one business to another, and he compared one business continuing to invest in what he thinks is "old technology" to another investing in "old technology". At absolutely NO TIME did he compare TAs to typewriters. Now - whether using TAs is old tech and whether schools are doing a good job preparing teachers is another topic. But hey - it's far more exciting to over hype and misrepresent than it is to really talk about the issues.

  • Tom Laurence Nov 9, 2015
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    Not surprising he made this comment - as he knows NOTHING about what goes on in a typical classroom. Teachers have an extremely difficult time teaching students - even if the students are somewhat at the same "educational" level, due to the large number of students in the classroom. Then, when you factor in the un-ruly students and large numbers of students into the equation - Teachers don't have a chance. This man needs to go home and be quiet.

  • Theo Bishop Nov 9, 2015
    user avatar

    One thing a lot of people voted republican thanking that was the way to go. Now they are messing up people lives so they can in joy the fruits in a better way. Please thank before we vote in 2016.

  • Melissa Noderer Nov 9, 2015
    user avatar

    Charlie Watkins, what is the source of your information that TA jobs are like patronage jobs?

    I'm pretty sure a day in the life of a TA, he/she earns their pay with valor and compassion: wiping up after a child who has can't make it to the toilet on time; wiping a snotty nose; working with ESL students; helping the autistic child; working with remedial reading and math students and other duties as assigned. It is a hard job, with little thanks.

    Berger's comment was insulting enough. He owes TAs an apology for his crass and misinformed statement. I won't hold my breath. Ohhhh, by the way: I am not a teacher or a TA.

  • Roy Hinkley Nov 9, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Let's not forget, Berger also made the School Performance Grades happen (those lousy A-F grades for the schools).

  • Charlie Watkins Nov 9, 2015
    user avatar

    Teaching assistant jobs are like patronage jobs. It is a good way to give your sister-in-law a job. A sort of friends and family way to make some money.

    Pay the money to the teachers and everyone would agree that TA's can be eliminated.

  • Duane Putnam Nov 8, 2015
    user avatar

    Just exactly what planet do you live on, Mr. Berger? Measuring by these and other comments you have made and your unwavering support for big business and extremist conservatism; you are unfit to hold public office, much less be a leader in the NC Senate! Please resign and crawl back into the hole you came from!