Last updated: January 28. 2014 10:37AM - 825 Views

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Teachers need more compensation, and it’s time state lawmakers did something about it. We’re not talking about a placating nod of sympathy or compassionate words either; we’re talking about decisive action.

Lawmakers were quite decisive last year when they passed a budget bill that lowered the ax on supplemental pay for teachers who obtain master’s degrees (beginning in 2014-15) and took a back-handed swipe at teacher tenure while at the same time refusing to green light any real bump in overall pay.

They need to act just as decisively this year to right the injustices done to a group of professionals who truly hold the state’s future in their hands.

So pay our teachers is our mantra. It’s just that simple.

One would think that goes without saying, yet time and again we have to admonish those elected to serve us to do the right thing.

Last week, at a town hall meeting hosted by state Sen. Brent Jackson and attended by state Reps. Larry Bell and William Brisson, local education officials, led by city school board member Diane Viser, made a similar impassioned plea.

At that forum, Jackson stressed that he did expect at least some teachers to get a bump in pay.

The key word here is “some.”

While we understand — and support — rewarding teachers based on performance, we don’t believe that should mean a dry well for other educators, particularly those just getting out of school and weighing their professional options.

With a fifth-year teacher, who has a bachelor’s degree, making just over $30,000 a year (and that’s down from 2008’s $35,000), it’s easy to see why young people are steering away from education, and that’s not a good sign for our state, public education or the majority of our young people.

“Teachers really deserve more money than they are being paid,” Viser told those at the forum last week. “Most good teachers do what they do for reasons other than pay. But right now, it’s hard for a teacher to get through life on just what we pay them. What we pay them is not enough.”

She is right.

While Jackson was adamant that some type of pay raise, and for at least some teachers, was in the works, we believe lawmakers have to take greater strides than perhaps they are thinking if we are going to right the educational ship as it pertains to public education.

Adding some local control will be good, if that actually happens, but like Viser we agree that the control needs to include giving local school boards the authority to mete out any pay bump across the board.

“If you don’t do it that way,” Bell stressed at the forum, “you’re going to have some people on the lower end who will lose completely.” It’s a sentiment shared by Brisson and echoed today by us.

North Carolina is embarrassingly behind in teacher pay and catching up looks next to impossible. But we must try. We can’t afford to lose the best and brightest to other state’s or other professions any more than we can afford to run good teachers currently in our classrooms away. Our students’ futures and, really the future of our state depends upon a stronger support system for educators.

Lawmakers must act, and it’s up to us, their constituents, to provide the strong voice that forces should action to take place. We can make a difference if we lift our voices together in support of teachers and education, demanding better from those we’ve elected to represent us.

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