From an editorial in the (Winston-Salem) Journal on Tuesday:
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest drew attention to himself last week for telling conservative supporters in Greensboro that North Carolina should have the nations highest paid teachers.
But recognizing his audience, he quickly added no tax increase would be needed. Budget cuts could fund the raises.
Were not so sure.
According to state figures, there are approximately 95,000 state-paid public-school teachers in our 2,526 public and charter schools. They earn an average of $45,938 a year, rank-ing 46th in the country, approximately $10,000 below the national average.
But our average is almost $27,500 below New Yorks, the nations highest, according to the National Education Association. So if Forest proposed matching New Yorks average salaries over the decade, the state would need more than $2.6 billion for teacher-salary increases alone. That represents more than 10 percent of the current state budget.
And our calculation doesnt include principals, assistant principals, the teacher aides who are still working and other professionals such as librarians and counselors. They deserve raises, too.
Nor does it include teachers in our community colleges and universities, nor the thousands of state employees who will need raises, too.
Of course, over the next decade, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut, states that pay their teachers the highest salaries, wont be standing still. Theyll be raising teacher salaries, too. That $2.6 billion target looks mighty low, considering all of that.
Nonetheless, we applaud Forest for his concern and for shooting for the moon. Its nice to see a prominent Republican politician who, like the 80 percent of North Carolinians recently surveyed by Elon University, feels that teachers are poorly paid.
Now that hes initiated this idea, Forest should come forth with a realistic, short-term proposal to get a significant raise for our teachers.
First in the nation may not be realistic, or even necessary given our cost of living. But significantly better than 46th is essential.
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