A couple of months ago, Cornelius Elementary School librarian Pam Liley gave an apt description of a teacher pay system N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory came up with after lawmakers scrapped the states teacher tenure plan. She called it McCrorys Hunger Games for teachers a reference to the novels and movies that have the poor fighting in competitions against each other for their survival.
McCrorys idea establish a $30 million innovation fund to provide $10,000 stipends to 1,000 of the states top teachers (about 1 percent) didnt get anywhere. But the N.C. legislatures changes, with the same twisted theme, are being implemented. This summer, the General Assembly voted to end all teacher tenure by 2018. Next year, up to 25 percent of the states teachers those school systems deem the top teachers will be offered four-year contracts and a $5,000 pay raise for that period. All other teachers will be hired on one-year contracts, with no possibility for tenure. Those teachers already with tenure will be asked to give it up by 2018.
Wake County School Board member Tom Benton voiced last week the big flaw in the states plan: Were all very confident that more than 25 percent of our teaching staff are superior teachers.
And well they should be. If only a quarter of the states teachers are doing their jobs well, the N.C. education system wouldnt be just broken. It would be on life support. Thats not the case.
So it was not surprising to hear leaders of the states largest school systems last week challenging the change, and urging lawmakers to reconsider. Wake board member Kevin Hall bluntly said they should, look at the long-term consequences both intendend and unintended of this legislation before it does irreparable harm that will take years and years and years to fix.
One key harm? Superb teachers will leave the states public schools, and it will be hard to lure other good ones here. Good teachers are key to an effective education system that gives students what they need to compete and become successful after they graduate. This Hunger Games plan of rewarding just a sliver of the top educators could dumb down education statewide and give fewer students access to excellent teachers not more.
And as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison rightly points out, this plan threatens already low teacher morale morale dragged down by other legislative actions including increasing class sizes, cutting teacher assistant positions and providing no teacher raises this year.
There also may be legal problems with the four-year contract plan. Ann McColl, general counsel for the N.C. Association of Educators, notes that state statistics show that 96 percent of classroom teachers are rated as proficient. With no standard outlined for those who would get the contracts, school systems differing criteria could result in significant inequities. Morrison said some districts are suggesting that theyll do a lottery because of concerns about legal issues and morale.
This is precisely the wrong way to ensure N.C. teachers are the best in the nation. Even in the business world, this compensation plan would raise eyebrows.
Lawmakers have treated N.C. educators shabbily. Its no wonder some are considering a walkout in protest. They should resist that urge for the sake of N.C. students. But legislators should revisit this poorly thought-out change. Good teachers shouldnt be pitted against each other in a battle for adequate compensation.
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