5If you suspect North Carolina’s children are under siege, I agree with you.
First, there is the ongoing and relentless attack on public education by the current brain trust at the North Carolina General Assembly.
Somehow millions of American parents, including an alarming number in our state, have signed on to the notion that public schools are irrevocably broken, despite the reality that almost 9 out of 10 Tar Heel students are indeed in public schools. This belief has given license to a rogue legislature to decrease support to public schools and give tax dollars paid in by you and by me to private, often religious, schools with next-to-no oversight.
Some of this shifting of public funds comes under the banner of “parents’ rights.” Of course, parents have rights but so do everyday, hardworking taxpayers who want and expect public education to give their children, grandchildren, and future North Carolina workforces the tools to make our state’s economy thrive.
Then there is the all-out assault on North Carolina educators, who are leaving their chosen profession in droves. AXIOS reports that 11% of NC teachers bolted during the 2022-2023 school year, up almost 4% from the prior year. Money is certainly part of the departure equation. North Carolina ranks 41st in teacher pay, down from 38th the year before, and 36th the year before that, according to the National Education Association. The World Population Review ranks North Carolina even lower, ahead of only West Virginia, Mississippi, and South Dakota.
Inadequate pay is bad enough, but it is hardly the only issue teachers face. The Assembly, an online, non-profit newsletter, recently ran a piece written by one of those departing teachers, Lisa Williams, now working in the private sector. Williams taught in public high schools for more than 2 decades in Kentucky and New Hanover County, teaching about 3500 students. Salary does not appear to be her major concern. Instead, she wrote this.
“This year, I started carrying a bulletproof backpack to work. I kept my classroom door locked all day….When we were called into lockdowns, I stood behind the classroom door so I could greet anyone who might be on the other side, because, while I might go down, I could buy time for my students to run.”
And, this.
“This year, I worked an average of four hours after school every night and at least 10 hours during weekends….It wasn’t because I enjoyed the work or because I am a perfectionist. It was so I could meet the demands of the local school board policy stating that every paper should be graded within one week of its due date.”
Also, this.
“There’s a mentality surrounding teaching right now that involves gaslighting and misinformation….They ask, Isn’t that what you signed up for? Welcome to the myth of the American teacher. Most of us are not trying to become stumps in exchange for abuse and martyrdom, but at the core of our being, a voice of conviction poses the question we all have to answer: What about the kids?
“Kids are losing the most in the battle over public education.”
How anyone thinks degrading public education is a forward-thinking policy is beyond me. North Carolina valued and protected public education through most of the 20th century but beginning around 2010, we seemed to forget that we all benefit from an educated and productive workforce, and we all suffer when we do not have one.
It becomes a 5-alarm fire when we also realize that United States students lag behind their peers across the developed world. According to PBS, students in 29 other countries have higher math scores than American 15-year-olds and US scores in reading and science rank 20th and 23rd respectively.
Clearly, North Carolina needs to get its education house back in order and fast.

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