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Editorial: Time to hike supplement

Money isn’t the only motivation that might persuade a schoolteacher to move from one district to another. Teachers who make lateral moves often cite other factors, as well, such as working conditions, lack of administrative or parental support or code-red frustration level with bureaucracy.
But money is one factor that influences career decisions in many walks of life, teachers included, which is why county officials should be receptive to the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s plea for a $500 increase in the local salary supplement (which currently ranges up to $2,000, depending on experience).
In making their case for the increase, which would bring the total supplement request to $772,000, school officials have noted that offering a competitive salary is essential if the system is to recruit and retain top quality teachers. In a recent column in the Post, Superintendent Judy Grissom mentioned that the local supplement hasn’t been increased in several years. She also alluded to the fact that higher supplements at other school systems “within driving distance” ó such as Cabarrus ó can make it harder for Rowan to hold down teacher turnover.
Thus far, members of the county commission say they want to maintain the state average in per-pupil spending, which will add up to an additional $1.9 million for the Rowan-Salisbury System and Kannapolis City Schools. Given other rising expenses, including additional operating costs because of higher fuel prices and raises for other county employees, county officials may not be able to meet the school system’s full request for $33.8 million in local funds, an increase of $3 million from last year. But in terms of the county’s education dollars, there’s no better investment than putting money into classroom personnel. Schools are no different from any other organization in this regard. Experienced, highly qualified employees help provide stability and continuity. That, in turn, can affect academic achievement and graduation rates. When good teachers jump ship, schools not only lose the benefit of their experience; they also incur the costs of recruiting and training less experienced teachers ó if they can find them.
Fortunately for the local school system, its teacher-retention initiatives have managed to keep local turnover rates in line with, if not slightly better, than state averages. Last year, for instance, the turnover rate for local elementary teachers was 13 percent, according to the system’s 2006-2007 state report card, while the state average in that group was 15 percent. But the competitive pressures are increasing, and teachers, along with everyone else, are feeling the pinch of higher prices for food and fuel. That makes the local salary supplement more important than ever.
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Tell us your opinion. Should the county increase the local salary supplement for teachers? Take our survey and post comments at www.salisburypost.com.

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