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NC education jeopardized

Frustrated NC teachers take to the streets in Raleigh.
Frustrated NC teachers take to the streets in Raleigh during a July “Moral Monday” protest.

By Kayla Miron

Once at the forefront of education in the South, the state of North Carolina has drastically sunk in quality-of-education rankings as it systematically undermines its teachers. With the removal of class size limits, teacher tenure, teaching assistant positions, and teacher raises based on experience or education, NC has created a near-impossible set of conditions under which it expects public school teachers to work. This additional stress on teachers may, if left unchecked, lead to the total demise of public education in NC.

“I love North Carolina… and I really like teaching, but I’m not going to lie, it gets harder and harder every year to say ‘Can I keep doing this?’” remarked East English teacher Keith Gerdes.

Teachers across the state mirror Gerdes’ frustration. By eliminating class size limits, NC has cut 5,200 teaching positions across the state and put an undue burden on the remaining teachers. Teachers are now expected, without teaching assistants, to instruct as many as 50 students in a single class. While this change will hurt all teachers, it will devastate elementary school teachers most. One-on-one attention in elementary school helps lost students develop in a positive direction and helps facilitate safe and organized classes.Without class limits or teacher’s assistants elementary schools may sink into chaos. Given that NC has also cut teacher tenure and severely limited the conditions under which a teacher may expect a raise, removing class size limits demands that teachers take on a great deal of extra work without the promise of any monetary compensation or title increase.

The eradication of tenure for teachers who have not attained it by the end of the 2013-2014 school year insults teachers statewide.  Not only will they never see the pay associated with prolonged teaching, but they they will lose protection should their ideas challenge those of their school’s administration. The state of North Carolina has instituted numerous hurdles for teachers to clear and removed their means of voicing any displeasure.

“We’ve gone to a professional school, but you’re not treated like a professional. I think that’s the frustrating piece,” explained East Math teacher Jay Wilson.

While slashing the budget for public education, the North Carolina legislature has made plans to funnel millions of taxpayers’ dollars into private education. The newest version of the NC budget includes $10 million in the first year and $40 million in every subsequent year for school vouchers, which would allow students in failing public schools to enroll in private ones with state funds.

This system marks the beginning of a possible shift towards privatized education funded by public money. Instead of allowing public school teachers to suffer, the state of North Carolina should eliminate school vouchers from the budget. This would make funds available to restore some of the benefits promised to, then stolen from, public school teachers. To avoid the total collapse of a once progressive education system, NC must quickly reward its teachers before they all retire or flee to other states out of frustration.

Photo Courtesy of: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/07/22/3049030/teachers-say-lawmakers-are-forsaking.html

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