The teacher shortage

From an editorial Wednesday in the (Raleigh) News & Observer:

North Carolina is heading for a serious teacher shortage, judging by the number of students enrolled in UNC education programs. It’s down 27 percent over four years.

UNC system schools produce a large share of North Carolina public school teachers. The decline translates to thousands fewer classroom instructors. Where will they come from?

Rather than answer that question, North Carolina must reverse the trend. It took one step in the right direction last year by passing a 7 percent average teacher pay raise, which was heavily weighted toward newer teachers. This year, the legislature plans to raise starting pay for teachers to $35,000.

North Carolina also should correct some mistakes it has made in recent years. It eliminated the N.C. Teaching Fellows program, which provided college scholarships for bright young people who pledged to teach for at least four years after graduation. The state also no longer offers higher salaries for teachers who earn master’s degrees.

In South Carolina, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has proposed: tuition subsidies for college students who agree to teach for two years; help in paying college loans; financial support for teachers earning graduate degrees; and extra pay for teachers who agree to mentor younger colleagues. North Carolina should match those initiatives.

Teachers deserve to be treated with respect and given decent working conditions. For many North Carolina teachers, the reality is less than that. As long as it is, attracting enough talented new teachers will be hard and the state’s children will suffer.