In North Carolina, the principal problem in public education is not that teachers are leaving after a short stint in the profession. It is more likely that they aren’t considering the teaching profession in the first place. Currently, North Carolina is producing only 3,200 education graduates to fill 11,000 positions per year.
This educational crisis has resulted in thousands of vacancies in North Carolina public schools. It has also forced the state to use long-term substitutes. This means that many North Carolina parents pay taxes and get, at worst, no teacher, or, at best, an under-qualified teacher to educate their children.
Fortunately, the North Carolina Legislature understands there is a crisis and recently passed a measure that would designate out-of-state schoolteachers as "highly qualified" in North Carolina if that distinction was earned in the teacher’s home state. Removing the requirement that new teachers pass standardized tests within their subject areas to demonstrate, once again, that they are “highly-qualified,” makes it easier for them to come to work in our state at a time when we desperately need help.
This common-sense measure was unanimously passed in the house and was approved by all but four members of the N.C. State Senate. Unfortunately, Democratic Governor Mike Easley has vetoed the bill with the enthusiastic support of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE). NCAE Vice President Carolyn McKinney sums up the union’s position: “We look forward to the plan to get teachers to the national average and above and the actions that will follow the research to improve the teaching and learning conditions in our schools.”
Of course, most North Carolinians look at this crisis and see the children as its victims. But McKinney’s focus is on the teachers. While it is refreshing to hear McKinney admit that our teachers are below average, it is disappointing to hear her cry for more taxpayer-funded research to get teachers up to the national average. Her organization also admits there is a teacher shortage that will be compounded by the addition of 42,000 more students in the next three years.
But this is old news to most readers. The public has long expected the teachers in these unions to place their own interests above the interests of the taxpayers and their children.