Am I missing something?

Published April 7, 2022

By Tom Campbell

Our teachers must feel like they are wearing a bullseye on their backs. There aren’t many who have their backs these days, and those who do aren’t speaking loudly in support. Strange, because most agree that educating our children is the most important task of state government.
There is a definite anti-traditional or district school sentiment from our General Assembly.  They devote hours telling educators how to teach history, effectively dismissing our state’s roots with slavery and discrimination. Additionally, they want to dictate how we teach sex, especially sexual orientation. How do they think students will react when they get in the real world and are confronted by both? If parents and teachers don’t instruct our children, somebody in the schoolyard or social media will do it.
Lawmakers get wrapped around the axle interfering in education operational issues, when their primary role is to be education’s bankers. And in that role they get failing grades. We rank 47th in the nation in per-capita funding for public schools. The national average is $13,597; North Carolina spends just $10,595 per pupil, actually less than a decade ago. We rank 33rd in teacher pay and whenever the subject of increased pay is raised, legislators claim they don’t have the money. Really, isn’t there about $6 billion stockpiled in savings? Lawmakers love to rail about the “boogeyman” NC Association of Educators, ignoring the fact that fewer than 18 percent of teachers belong to what they call “the teachers union.”
We’ve heard crickets from lawmakers about last year’s test scores that reveal that a majority our students failed basic core subjects. Instead of offering whatever assistance is needed to pull our students up, they blame the decline on the governor closing schools, or the pandemic. It’s time to stop the finger pointing and find solutions. While money isn’t the only solution, more is obviously needed.
And God forbid a teacher (or principal) tries to discipline a child. Time was that if I got disciplined in school (usually for talking too much) what I received at home was far worse. Today, whatever the accusation, many parents won’t accept that their precious progeny did something wrong. The teacher is just targeting their child. So much for trying to keep order in class.
Lawmakers love charters schools, but nary a word is heard when accountability problems and failures are revealed in charters. They especially favor and fund private schools, even those who focus on religious instruction and have even less accountability. And don’t forget almost 1 in 10 students (112,000) is homeschooled, but homeschools don’t have to report how many students they have, what those students are learning or how they are performing. They are required to give one national test a year of their choice, but they don’t even have to report student test results.
Despite the legislature passing a law requiring every teacher to post their lesson plans online, lawmaker Norman Sanderson, wants to install cameras in every classroom. Won’t that require spending dollars we can’t seem to find to ensure Big Brother is watching every moment? Just who is going to review every hour of every day in every classroom? Guess they will just have to take more money from providing nurses and counselors, or art, music or P.E. teachers.
Speaking of parents, many of them seem equally anti-education, disrupting school board meetings and making demands like having input in school curriculums or authority to ban books they don’t like from school libraries.
With all the vitriol our teachers face there’s no wonder many are retiring. The Public School Forum of North Carolina recently discussed the state’s school workforce shortage. “The demands of teaching in the pandemic have been tough enough on their own,” said Jennie Bryan, a 2021 North Carolina Teacher of the Year finalist from Brunswick County. “But then when we combine that with the targeting of teachers’ professional and academic integrity, the creation of controversies out of our curriculum in our highly politicized times has really almost absolutely broken the spirit of many of my colleagues.”
On top of all the above problems, our schools no longer feel safe. There’s the bullying and violence and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools are buying see-through book bags and requiring their use, after 23 guns were discovered on school grounds the first semester this year. They aren’t alone in worrying.
I must be missing something, but I cannot understand why anyone would want to be a teacher. No doubt it is an admirable calling. Thankfully there were those willing to teach me and you, our children, and those yet coming. I acknowledge that all teachers don’t always get it right and reforms are needed, but teachers are in the classroom trying every day and don’t deserve the vitriol, blame and accusations they face. We need to celebrate, affirm and encourage them. Our kids are worth it…and so are our teachers!