DIANE MITCHELL & DEE GRISSETT: Politicians hurt students with teacher shortage. Fix it with better state budget
Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 -- Many North Carolina students are going back to school to find classrooms without qualified teachers. Because of a widespread teacher shortage, schools are filling classrooms with substitutes, teaching assistants, and unlicensed instructors. North Carolina has zero education requirements to work as a substitute teacher. The teacher shortage is worse in some counties, but it's felt across the state.Posted — Updated
Behind these numbers is real harm to our children. Students are less likely to learn to read with a substitute teacher who’s not familiar with the best ways to teach reading. Students are less likely to master math with a teacher who is learning as they go. We are letting our students down during their formative years. Our children deserve better.
How did we get here? It’s deeper than COVID. For the last decade, North Carolina’s state lawmakers have passed state budgets that underfund public education and undermine teachers. Politicians are not treating or paying teachers as professionals. North Carolina’s average teacher salary is $10,000 below the national average. Experienced teachers are leaving the state and profession. College students are choosing other careers.
Some politicians have tried to dismiss the teacher shortage by claiming we need more data to see if statewide teacher vacancy numbers are better or worse than last year. That’s like waiting to fight the forest fire until you can confirm the blaze has grown since yesterday. North Carolina’s teacher shortage is obvious now. It’s hurting our children now. Now is the time to fix it.
The immediate first step to ending this teacher shortage is adopting a state budget with better funding for public education. Of course, state lawmakers who have underfunded our public schools are dithering over a $6.5 BILLION surplus and have still not adopted a new budget that was due two months ago. So far, their budget proposals would largely ignore the NC Supreme Court’s funding demands for education. Instead, they would further cut corporate income taxes.
Meantime, many North Carolina schools are leaning on teaching assistants and long-term subs to cover classrooms that don’t have permanent, licensed teachers. Parents, the public, and voters should tell our politicians to fix this now. You would not go to the dentist, and then let the receptionist clean your teeth.
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