Result is right, price is wrong

Jun. 24, 2014 @ 04:54 AM

We have always agreed that teacher pay in North Carolina is a paramount issue which requires addressing by the General Assembly.

However, the price to pay for that increase — especially the price built into the North Carolina Senate’s budget proposal — is not the way to go about it.

Under the Senate proposal, the 37-step pay scale for teachers would be replaced by an entirely new system and an average salary increase of $5,800 would be put in place for the first year of implementation.

That sounds great.

But, the price school systems would have to pay is another issue altogether.

Under the Senate plan, and according to Rutherford County Manager Carl Classen, the amount of cost shifts and unfunded mandates for Rutherford County Schools would jump from nearly $775,000 to almost $2.5 million to make up for the pay increase.

Essentially, it is robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, issued an op-ed in The Charlotte Observer Saturday that highlights the embarrassment North Carolina has to deal with in regards to paying its teachers.

And, he’s right.

The recession and current pay scale has put the state behind the 8-ball when it comes to paying its educators.

The Senate plan also provides teachers with a choice of either taking the additional pay and forgoing their scaled status or remaining on the scale and not taking the immediate pay increase.

But that is not the issue we have with the plan.

It is the unbridling shift of costs and mandates that school systems across the state will face as a result of the Senate plan.

Granted, it is a similar story with the House plan, only the unfunded mandates will be less — to the tune of around $1 million for Rutherford County Schools.

Either way you slice it, the plan the state is looking at would solve one issue — the appalling rate of teacher pay in the state — but it adds a huge burden to our schools.

It’s a burden neither Rutherford County Schools nor Rutherford County government can afford.

And, at the end of the day, these unfunded mandates and cost shifts will be passed down to us, the taxpayers of Rutherford County.

While we agree teacher pay deserves the utmost consideration on the state level, that should not be done at the risk of putting our schools in a position of paying for these unfunded mandates handed down by state lawmakers.

Perhaps it is time for the state to stop raiding the Education Lottery funds and devise a plan to pay teachers a respectable wage without putting school systems — like Rutherford County — deeper in a hole they are already struggling to get out of.

By Matthew Clark, for the Editorial Board

 

The Daily Courier Editorial Board consists of community members Jerry Brewer, Kyle Bingham, Tom Padgett and Cliff Strassenburg as well as Editor Matthew Clark.