Roger Barbee: Practical help for our schools
Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 16, 2023
North Carolina Republican lawmakers have introduced the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” in another attempt to give more control over public education to non-educators. The introduced bill addresses matters such as requiring a teacher to make classroom teaching materials available for inspection by a parent or guardian. In my tenure of over forty years in classrooms, I never knew a teacher at any level who would not have happily shared his or her teaching materials with any interested person. After all, sharing knowledge is what teachers do. While it appears that many elected leaders are primarily concerned with culture war issues surrounding education, I applaud them for at least expressing some interest in public education; I have a few recommendations for them to pass into law if they seriously want to improve our public educational system.
- Create a state-wide living wage for our teachers: In 2021 the average salary for teachers in North Carolina was about $55,000. This figure needs little or no explanation, so raise it to a wage that allows our teachers to be able to live lives of quality while not needing to seek second jobs and one that will attract quality educators to our state.
- Mandate smaller classes: Hire more teachers to decrease the number of students in every classroom. Cramming thirty or more students, of various interests and abilities, into a ninety-minute class, does not produce good education. Our teachers and their students need classes of fifteen or so in order to have quality not quantity in public education.
- Increase the number of electives: Our children have various interests and talents; so create a wide range of electives such as drama, art, dance, and more in every public school.
- Offer more non-academic classes such as cosmetics or bricklaying: Not all students want or need to attend college, so provide the funds for our schools to offer classes where a student can begin to learn a skill to help him or her enter the workforce.
- Equalize monies spent on every child across the state: A child in Robeson County, for instance, should have the same amount spent on his or her education as one in Wake County. The inequality of public funds spent on public education only harms the entire state and it does little to eradicate pockets of poverty.
- Require every child be taught cursive and help teachers find a way to accomplish it: After years of not teaching our children this most basic of skills, much evidence now points to the error of our ways. Writing and reading cursive is a skill needed in our world, regardless of the computers we all use. Not possessing this ability is akin to having a basketball player not able to dribble with both hands.
- Help educators devise an effective and honest policy for student attendance: A student cannot learn if not in class. Laws exist concerning attendance, but other measurements of our schools, such as graduation rates or test scores, nullify an honest enforcement of attendance when students are “passed along” in order to satisfy other state mandates. Help our schools put meat to the bone of attendance by holding students (and maybe parents) accountable for poor attendance.
- Develop a just state-wide yearly calendar: We are no longer an agrarian society, so create a school calendar that reflects our modern economy and life while being sensitive to local traditions such as county fairs.
- Provide a system of free meals for our needy students: Schools today, unfortunately, must nurture more than the minds for many of our students. Hunger gets in the way of learning, so furnish nutritious food for every student who has that need.
- Help educators establish programs for students with special needs: Mainstreaming such students does little to help them grow; while requiring them to attend regular classes is unjust to them and other students who do not require special services,
Our teachers, like our police, fire, nurses, EMTs, and other public servants are dedicated to their profession and deserve the respect of us all. Just because you live in a house does not mean you are qualified to build one, and that adage applies to education. Too many people think that because they once sat in classrooms they are qualified to tell educators how to educate. If nothing else was learned during COVID, we should have come to appreciate the work our educators do.
All our teachers and their supervisors work under a local school board that sets policy for them, so state mandates concerning issues such as mentioned in the first paragraph are classic examples of government overreach. Laws passed to mollify a microscopic number of complaints do not help our students or their educators. Instead of passing such laws, show respect for our educator’s work by providing for them what they need to better educate our children-more resources.
Roger Barbee lives in Mooresville. Contact him at email@example.com