Education must be a state priority

Education must be a state priority

Kevin Griffin

After years of problematic education policy, North Carolina is beginning to see the ill effects of poor tactics.

Six hundred Wake County public school teachers have quit their jobs, citing a perceived lack of respect and dwindling economic prospects. This is a 41 percent increase in the teacher turnover rate from the previous year, according to WNCN.

The 600 represent only the teachers who have quit mid-year, not the entire number for the full school year.

This outcome, as unfortunate as it is, was foreseeable. For years now, teachers have faced stagnant pay, and the perceived lack of respect has driven many from the profession.

Politically, the issue of education and teacher pay has devolved into a blame game between the two parties. Wake County Republicans have even released a statement blaming the lag in teachers pay on several factors, including the policies of former Gov. Bev Perdue.

As data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows, teacher pay certainly has lagged for years. But blaming the lack of teacher pay increases on Perdue does not truly address the problem.

Teacher pay did remain stagnant under Perdue, but it should be noted that her tenure as governor came shortly after the 2008 financial crisis, an event that took a toll on economies across the country. Furthermore, Perdue took the unprecedented step of vetoing two state budgets, in part over cuts to education called for by the Republican legislature, according to WRAL.

Bizarrely, the Wake County Republicans’ statement even gave Gov. Pat McCrory credit for the 1.2 percent pay increase that teachers received in 2012, before McCrory was governor.

And likewise, McCrory and Republicans cannot take sole blame for the education problems in the state. Teacher pay in North Carolina has lagged in comparison to other states for many years.

Still, they are the party in power at this moment, and the suggestions that have come from them are underwhelming. McCrory’s proposal in February to increase pay for starting teachers would do little good, since it would only affect starting teachers and not veteran teachers, according to the Greensboro News & Record.

Sorting out which party and which figures in government are most responsible for the education is important for accountability purposes, but if we are to truly remedy our education problems, we must look at this issue practically.

Education must become a priority, something that is seen as necessary for the reputation and success of the state. For too long, education has not been given the attention it deserves by this state’s leaders.

Kevin Griffin, a sophomore journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.