Editorial: Open teacher pipeline wide, not drips and drabs
Posted March 17
A CBC Editorial: Friday, March 17, 2017; Editorial # 8136
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
North Carolina’s pipeline of qualified teachers, so desperately needed to fill North Carolina public school classrooms, must be revived now, after years of neglect.
A vast majority of North Carolina school districts report trouble hiring high school math, science and special education teachers.
It is easy to see why: From 2011 through 2013 the North Carolina General Assembly denied raises to public school teachers. In 2011 the legislature also phased out the successful and popular state Teaching Fellows Program.
It is no surprise that since then -- enrollment in University of North Carolina System teacher education programs has dropped 30 percent. The state’s 15 schools of education provide the greatest number of classroom teachers for public schools.
This is not running government like a business, where you set policies and procedures to recruit and retain the best.
This is a self-inflicted crisis legislators created largely out of partisan antipathy toward anything linked to former Gov. Jim Hunt and supported by the state’s largest teachers’ organization. But instead of punishing the education establishment it victimized public school children who miss out on learning from homegrown teachers who represent the best and brightest we have to offer.
Now finally, our state leaders seem to be coming to their senses. It is urgent they rebuild the teacher pipeline – particularly as our state’s population continues to grow and legislative mandates to reduce class size in the early grades require hundreds of new teachers across the state.
Good teachers don’t appear out of the ether. While specifics need to be filled in, Gov. Roy Cooper has included a teaching fellows-like program in his budget and funds it with the state Education Lottery. Paying for ongoing programs such as this, with lottery funds is unwise and deserves to be paid for with general fund dollars.
Just last week legislative leaders unveiled a slimmed-down proposal to revive the Teaching Fellows Program. It would be funded through recurring, general fund dollars.
Token steps in the right direction may look nice, but it is time for truly bold action to make up for the neglect of the last six years. While Cooper's proposal appears to move closer to restoring the teacher pipeline than the legislative plan, we repeat that it shouldn't be funded through the lottery.
While well-intended, the revival proposed by the legislators doesn’t go far enough. Among several shortcomings, it is under-funded.
The teacher pipeline needs more than the 160 slots proposed by the legislators. A return to the original level, with 500 slots, should be the minimum.
Additionally, the legislation is too limited in the options for the future teachers. Seventeen public and private colleges and universities participated in the former fellows program. The proposed five is too few.
Proposals to add a focus on training more STEM and special education teachers are well-intentioned and necessary. But, there’s just as great a need for teachers at all levels and in all subject areas.
Rather than fussing over the fine print, legislators need to find the money to fully fund a program that will attract North Carolina’s best and brightest to become leaders of North Carolina’s public school classrooms – and then pay them at least the national average when they get there.