01-15-14-pub-notes.gifTurmoil Over Tenure

Personally, I think teaching is the most noble of professions. There’s not a person out there who cannot recollect that special teacher who personally transformed their life.

Here in Cumberland County I think our teachers are the best. Administratively, we have conscientious, competent, empathetic leadership. This is reflected in test scores, low drop-out rates and high graduation rates. So, why are teachers not making more money? Should our teachers earn higher salaries? Absolutely. It’s a mystery to me why our statewide teacher salaries are so low — 46th in the nation. There are a lot of excuses and finger pointing by the current Republican administration in Raleigh, but, in their defense, the records show a 2008 salary freeze for educators.

To many North Carolinians, this indicates the education of our children is a low priority. In view of the abundance of waste, fraud and abuse at all levels of state government, you would think finding money for the people who are responsible for the development of future generations would be a no-brainer. Well, it’s time to give our teaching profession the respect and priority it deserves in North Carolina.

The first step in doing that is to make sure that our teachers are respected and paid a decent salary. Having said this, it doesn’t mean paying all teachers the same salary, giving them the same amount of raise or harboring the incompetent. In other words, there is no place in secondary education for tenure. How would a business or organization survive if they could not fire incompetent employees? How would a professional sports team compete if they were forced to play unskilled team members? This is not the way it works in real life.

Hard work, success and competency are rewarded in real life. In real life, there are no guarantees. Hence, tenure has no place in secondary education. Actually, the concept of tenure was created in the early 1900s designed to protect the jobs of college professors to assure them academic freedom to teach and pursue extraordinary ideas and theories that college and university administrators may find objectionable. Prior to that time, only federal judges had such protections. Tenure was never meant to serve has an automatic safe port for the protection of lazy and incompetent educators.

Perhaps the perception that children cannot get a good education in North Carolina is at the heart of low morale, lagging academic achievement and the growth of charter schools. Bonuses for the best teachers is a must. Raises for the best teachers is a must. No to tenure and to the subsidies to mediocrity.

Good teaching professionals do not care about tenure and job security. They care about the children. They care about their profession and take pride in their talents and craft. To them, this is their job security. Again, tenure has no place in secondary public education. It protects the incompetent. It fosters mediocrity. It destroys intellectual treasures. States now spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in hearings, litigation and appeals just trying to remove teachers from their positions. It’s a costly process to maintain and the money spent on defending tenure could very well be reallocated to teachers’ salaries.

It is my hope that as the months go by the residents of Cumberland County and the State of North Carolina realize that public education is vitally important to the growth of our state. Educating our children in the public school system should reflect total commitment to our future generations. If we were doing this adequately, there would be little need for charter and private schools. Their proliferation is an indication that we need to do a better job.

If education and higher teacher salaries are truly high priorities in North Carolina, then we should find the money to fund them adequately. Tenure distracts from the very best. The longer the debate over tenure goes on, the longer we will have to wait on paying the professional, successful teachers in our school systems.One final note on the matter: Raleigh should initiate a statewide top-down assessment of education in North Carolina. I think what they will find is an abundant excess of resources and enough “waste and abuse” of taxpayer money that, if reallocated, would make our teachers the highest paid in the nation. And why not? We entrust them with the futures of our children.

Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

Photo: It’s time to make teacher tenure a thing of the past. 

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