F (for) the North Carolina Education Budget

second-grade-writing-class_300x300In North Carolina, this subject has been out of the limelight for a few months, but it is too important to let it slip through the cracks and be forgotten.  Raleigh and Durham seem to constantly show up on the high end of “the Best of” lists.  That is what led my wife and I to move here 7 years ago.  The job opportunities and the great education system that could be followed from Kindergarten to the many fine Universities in the area.  This North Carolina education system, especially in the Triangle, is a huge reason that many people have been, and continue to, move to this area.

Unfortunately, the continued budget cuts that have been hitting our education system in one way or another for the past 5 or 6 years will have a definite negative affect on the future growth in this area. Will the executives of new companies that NC tries to court here want a poor education system for their children?  What teachers will want to come here knowing that their pay is one of the lowest in the country, and the chances of raises will continue to be grave as  the last 5 years have proven.  How the people of this area have let this happen is truly amazing.  The new business model of State government seems to lean toward a corporate business model, but what success can come from cutting the general education budget, paying teachers poorly and perhaps worse of all, eliminating the pay raise that teachers were given by completing their graduate degrees?

Cutting the North Carolina education budget North Carolina education budget just does not make sense when, the Triangle area of North Carolina continues to grow at a rapid pace.  A sane person would deduct that a growing population would require a growing education budget, yet the NC Legislature approved a budget removing $482 million from the education budget over the next two years.  This will not only result in fewer resources in general, but the elimination of many teachers and teacher’s assistants.  The only result of this action will be larger student to teacher ratios and more students slipping through the cracks to failure.  Throwing money at a problem may not be the answer, but across the board budget cuts certainly is not either.

As a State employee (not a teacher), I can vouch for the fact that State employees have had one raise in the last 5 years.  This is not going to be a selling point to begin with in bringing the brightest and best teachers to North Carolina.  The resulting salaries are even worse though.  North Carolina now ranks 46th in the country for teacher pay.  Not a good way to recruit teachers or convince our best students to move into the education field.  If North Carolina wants to be a tech hub, it needs to pay its educators accordingly or lose its best performing teachers.

Lastly, the elimination of bonuses/raises for teachers attaining their graduate degree may be the most ridiculous decision made by the current government in North Carolina.  Why would you want to eliminate an incentive for the self-improvement of those that will be teaching our children?  In every other field on earth, your pay is directly related to how much you know, yet this Legislature has decided teachers should not be?  Brilliant!  To make it worse, this bonus elimination was imposed on those that were already in the process of completing their degree, so the money they spent in hopes of improving themselves educationally and financially were all for naught.  Eliminating these bonuses is no way to keep our education system improving; in fact, it will breed a stagnant learning environment.

As can be seen from this brief look into North Carolina’s new education budget, things are not looking good.  In fact, they are looking pretty dire.  Many of the reasons that so many have relocated to this area are in jeopardy due to the decisions of a few old men.  We as citizens and voters need to continue to push for more money to be funneled into our schools.  We cannot wait until the next elections or the next budget; our children are too important. We are destined to lose our best teachers if the salaries of perhaps our most important resource are not increased to a level that is more in line with the higher end of the states.  Finally, the elimination of bonuses for educating our educators makes no sense and should be lifted.  If North Carolina does not place the proper resources into its education system, I truly fear for the future of our children.

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15 thoughts on “F (for) the North Carolina Education Budget

  1. Great article Eric!

  2. Nice job but is hard to feel sorry for you all when our problems with education is much worse here in Cleveland/ Parma,/Ohio. At least you have a job market there. This is really not just a North Carolina issue, wake up America. As things are trending, WITH OUR NATIONS EDUCATION SYSTEM, I too fear for our children’s future.

  3. You miss the real problem: those darn teacher’s unions. They are the REAL reason we have such a declining education system here. I mean, they are so demanding, always threatening work actions, and burdening the citizens of this fine state with their calls for increasing pay and benefits, and more wasteful spending.

    There is absolutely no objective research that shows that any teaching advanced degree actually helps with student achievement. It only hurts the people of the Old North State since the teachers who gets these degrees were doing it for the extra pay. If they cared about their students, they’d spend more time on them, not this ivory-tower cultural indoctrination. What works in elsewhere won’t work here. We just need to get back to basics, and stop all of this nonsense.

    We need a more free market approach to our education system. I am sure that big business can fix all the problems we face here. We just need to make sure that the sinister teacher’s union is put back in their place.

  4. Great article Eric! I feel that our children need to be our first priority and somewhere, the kids have gotten lost and are the last priority. We are fighting over building new schools and bringing in new curriculum, but who is going to teach it. All the good teachers are getting discouraged and leaving for better paying jobs. I know of 2 teachers that have left the school system all together and have went into another field. Sad!

  5. I fully agree with you and sadly NC is not the only state making such drastic cuts in education.

  6. I am sorry to say if we cannot fix this problem I see NC schools turning into the Cleveland Municipal School District average in high school math is 3.5% and reading is 2.4% and the teachers just don’t care. If we are going to live in this state we need to stop letting people who do not have kids in the systems to make decisions for us with children in school. And great article E

  7. Excellent article, Eric!

    Here I am, hoping to take the ball and move it farther toward the goal. I think teachers are like farmers. What they do is essential to life. When they do it well, EVERYBODY benefits. Our country’s success depends on every person having an exemplary education: Healthy Body+Healthy Mind=Healthy Economy.

    The kicker is: most teachers work in relative anonymity. Then, if teachers do their jobs well, all the credit goes to the students. Only rarely do we hear a famous athlete, politician, author, or entertainer thank a teacher. And because they’re such amazing people, most teachers don’t even mind!

    Where I live in Pennsylvania, the school property tax is very high. I pay it and defend it. That tax pays teachers’ salaries. However, many complain. Say what you will about unions and other issues, at some point supporting teachers and students is the core of the matter.

    Of course moms and dads are on the front lines when it comes to classroom support. They’re often in class with snacks or supplies, and they lend their expertise in building, public speaking, tutoring and more. It’s no wonder so many those students succeed whose parents support their education.

    However, teacher support can come in so many ways, including state budgets for education. Local funding is also essential. And “support” doesn’t necessarily need to be financial, although that’s what clearly pays teachers.

    I suggest school administrations and communities communicate constantly and learn as much as they can about what’s really needed in their localities and beyond. Just for instance, locally: many districts must first address student nutrition, then, how is your district when it comes to computers, science equipment, supplies and transportation? Beyond that: do you support scholarships, teacher training, teacher bonuses and teacher recruiting?

    Keeping things academic, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Clemson, UCLA, NC State and The University of Missouri (to name just a very few) have healthy alumni communities that annually provide support to state school athletic programs, and all have excellent teacher training programs. Strengthening relationships between public and higher education, and connecting alumni support with local K-12 school needs could improve states’ overall school health.

    Interested adults and organizations could find out how to connect available grant monies to needed projects. Acquiring grant money is a straightforward process. This book helped me obtain my first grant while I was still in grad school: Winning Grants Step by Step, Carlson and O’Neal-McElrath, (2008) Jossey-Bass. I’m not affiliated with the authors or publishers; it’s just a great tool for obtaining results. Sadly, a lot of well-intended education funds are left unclaimed because no one asks for them.

    Connecting corporations to education is brilliant, understanding that the sponsorship will bring them a trained and capable workforce, not just advertising. Culturally, we are getting used to “CitiBank Athletic Field” and “MetLife Auditorium”. My hope is that it becomes commonplace for corporations to support education, and the questions will move from “DID you support schools?” to “HOW did you support schools?”

    These are by no means solutions to state budget cuts, and the double-edged sword is that budgets risk further cutting if subsidies come from other sources. The reality, too, is that once cut, budgets rarely recover.

    Ultimately, people have to examine their own commitment to education at all levels — national/state/local/individual, pre-school/elementary/middle/secondary, public/private/home/cyber/charter, etc — whether they have children or not, whether they had a successful educational experience or not.

    Keeping the conversation going is the first step. Going further by researching and making informed suggestions is next. Then putting effort or $$ toward school needs is the ultimate. Even if you don’t currently have a child in school, know that your nieces or nephews, neighbors, jobs, governments, and ultimately the nation will benefit.

    Thank you for your post, Eric. I want it to go viral. I’m glad you heard from Ohio. I’m weighing in from Pennsylvania.

    • Thanks for the kind words and taking the time to make such a well written and pertinent comment. I wrote specifically about NC, but I am totally aware that this issue is not ours alone.

  8. Reduced funding for public education has a very dark side. With less money for schools, the push to establish charter schools gets an added boost. Charter schools are run by businessmen. In Ohio these schools don’t have to abide by state regulations, and therefore accountability falls by the wayside. It’s no surprise that Republican run states are seizing the opportunity to get into the business of education. Lowering taxes at the same time draws the uneducated to vote accordingly. Don’t be surprised if charter schools pop up more and more not just in North Carolina. It’s a sad day for public education. You get what you pay for.

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