North Carolina Republicans are enjoying their first super-majority in state government in over a century. That might not be a bad thing for the state — that many years of power in the hands of one political party, Republican or Democrat, will always lead to excess and a bureaucracy that could stand to be pared down.
But the General Assembly, under its perceived mandate to dramatically tighten the belt of the state, has proposed cuts to essential government services, like education, that never should have been touched.
The pay scale for North Carolina teachers is one of the lowest in the country, with a starting base salary of $30,800 in fiscal year 2012-2013. That’s the lowest in the South, and higher than only five other states in the nation. The senate budget has proposed freezing teacher pay for another year and also halts a 10 percent pay increase for teachers with advanced degrees. That stipend has been in place since 1941 (which, for the sake of perspective, was the same year the U.S. declared war on the Japanese during World War II).
The Senate has also proposed funding cuts to the Smart Start program, Teaching Fellows and teacher aides in second and third grades.
Our state has one of the best, if not the very best, public university systems in the country. The same standard of excellence should be applied to the entire education system, and it is the state government’s responsibility to make it a priority. A strong education system is the foundation for a strong economy, and an informed, educated citizenry is the key to ensuring the election of legislators who have the best interests of the state at heart.
North Carolina will see itself sliding farther and farther from the cutting edge in the aptitude of its student body if the General Assembly continues chopping away at the education budget.