Dear Guv: Why teach?
Dear Governor McCrory,
Allow me to introduce myself.
I’m a citizen of the state of North Carolina, in fact a lifelong resident of the Tar Heel State. I am also the proud father of an Appalachian State University student, a junior this year, who wishes to dedicate her life to the profession of teaching.
She made this a goal in her life as far back as her years in elementary school, inspired and influenced by an incredible teacher she knew as a child. He no longer teaches in the state of North Carolina, for reasons largely financial.
I have applauded and supported my daughter’s decision to enter the education field. I told her that, in spite of the many obstacles and financial limitations she will face, she has chosen a profession of honor and will enhance and bless the lives of many students along the way.
And she will. She’s made of the stuff that North Carolina schools need.
I must confess though, I have also recently begun telling her that she may want to pursue that goal in a state that believes in her a little more than North Carolina does.
You have no idea how much it pains me to tell her that. It was always my hope that she would lend her talents to our local system and sink roots right here. But I no longer believe that to be sound advice. North Carolina just doesn’t seem to want career teachers.
To tell you the truth Governor, I’m running out of speeches of encouragement.
She recently took a part time job to help with her college expenses. Company officials, noting her talent and drive, quickly offered her an opportunity at management training that would lead to a position paying more than twice the starting salary of a North Carolina teacher. In fact, it would pay a good bit more than twice a teacher’s salary.
She reluctantly turned them down to continue her education. She still wants to teach, though her enthusiasm for her chosen profession is beginning to flicker.
She sees what’s happening around her. At every turn, legislators seem to strip away incentives to begin and grow a career in education in North Carolina. Parents offer little support, and students seem to be taking their cue. Teachers are continually asked to do more and more with less and less.
I note with some gratitude that the state will at least begin the process of increasing the salaries of beginning teachers. But the salaries of career education professionals are still way below average. Many are finding they can barely make ends meet, and they’re leaving the profession altogether.
I know the world isn’t fair. In a fair world, we would generously reward the professionals who educate our children, and NBA players would struggle to earn a living.
I also know this problem didn’t begin with your administration. We plotted this course long ago and have navigated it through many administrations, both Republican and Democrat.
But it’s your watch now. You set the course for the future.
You seem like a reasonable man. I’ve met you, even shook your hand once. You’re cordial and influential. So I ask you: Where will you have us go? What direction will we take?
In fact, tackle this question: If, during the next 24 hours, you could freely make one move that would have a lasting positive impact on education in this state, what would you do with this day?
Please don’t answer that question by telling me what your party hopes to do. Like many people, I’ve grown weary of partisan politics. In fact, I believe that the good that happens in this state often happens in spite of the political process, not because of it.
The leader rises above politics and steps out from the crowd no matter what the political cost. Will you be remembered as a politician or a leader?
This state is waiting for your answer. So is my daughter.
Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.
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