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The governor’s empty support of education

Hey North Carolina, turns out you have an education governor after all. That’s what Pat McCrory told a state chamber of commerce conference in Chapel Hill on Thursday. In fact, his speech was so pro-education and pro-teacher that we wonder if we maybe missed that advocacy during the recent legislative session ... let’s check ... nope, we didn’t.

Public school and teachers needed an education governor last month when the Republican-led General Assembly was crafting and passing a bill that cut net education spending in the next two years, eliminated thousands of teacher assistants and left teacher pay abysmally low. But now that budgets and bills have been passed, and now that lawmakers have gone home, McCrory suddenly wants educators to know he’s on their side.

An example: McCrory has apparently discovered some concern about North Carolina sitting near the bottom of national rankings in teacher pay. McCrory said Thursday the issue had worsened under Democratic and Republican leadership. “It was unacceptable then and it’s unacceptable now,” he declared.

Where was that resolve last month when Republicans crafted a state budget that again offered teachers no raises for the next school year? We don’t remember any hesitation from the governor before signing that budget, which also phases out extra pay for teachers who earn a master’s degree, yet another reason for N.C.’s best to look for work elsewhere.

McCrory’s answer: A $30 million innovation fund that would include $10,000 stipends for 1,000 top teachers. That adds up to a little more than one percent of the state’s 95,000 teachers. So if you’re merely the second-best teacher at your school, you’re still out of luck.

Educators should be encouraged, at least, that McCrory voiced support for North Carolina’s participation in Common Core – a new, rigorous set of reading and math standards that more than 40 states have adopted. Common Core has been under attack in several states from conservatives, including N.C. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who’ve spread misinformation about the program.

McCrory called the Common Core standards high and relevant. He’s right, with a caveat. The governor also said he wanted to eliminate many standardized tests in N.C. schools, a potential conflict with Common Core’s emphasis on testing as a way to facilitate state-by-state comparisons. We also hope McCrory remains committed to Common Core if the first round of test results are grim for North Carolina, as some experts expect.

Thus far, however, educators and public school families don’t know what to believe with their governor. He campaigned as a former educator who would encourage and reward good teachers, yet he signed a budget that will result in bigger classrooms, fewer teaching assistants and stagnant pay.

Now he’s talking about “unleashing teachers” and producing “highly qualified workers for well-paying jobs.” But this week, those words were as empty as the N.C. legislative building.

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