Election season, or the Silly Season as it is known by many, is again upon us. It may be useless to bring some common sense into the picture, but let’s try.
In 2011, this state was nearly $3 billion overspent. Personal Income Taxes, Corporate Income Taxes and gasoline taxes were the highest in the Southeast and among the highest in the nation. North Carolina could not borrow money, our credit card was over the limit and we owed the Feds billions of dollars for money borrowed to sustain an under-performing system.
Over the last four years, Governor McCrory and the General Assembly have paid off those debts to the Feds, reduced personal and corporate income taxes to be among the lowest in the region, reduced and capped the gas tax AND added over a billion dollars to education funding in this state.
Before committing millions of dollars to teacher raises, Governor McCrory met with teachers and superintendents across this state who were clear that we must raise teacher salaries dramatically. And, they told us all that we must start with our newest teachers first or we will never be able to rebuild our base.
Over the last two years, North Carolina has implemented the largest teacher pay increase in the nation. We have also firmed up teachers’ benefit package which is now worth about $16,000 per year for every teacher in this state. Furthermore, contrary to what some teacher’s groups purport, NO benefits have been removed for new teachers, longevity pay was NOT taken away from veteran teachers, textbook funding has tripled during this administration and $97 million has been leveraged in federal and state funding to connect all schools to a robust Wi-Fi system by 2018.
In addition, graduation rates are at an all-time high and drop-out rates are at an all-time low. “Education Next” magazine now ranks North Carolina among the top K-12 schools in the nation for rigor and “Wallethub,” the online personal finance blog, has moved North Carolina into the top twenty in the nation for education quality and security.
There is more. We have stabilized the tuition costs for a 4- or 5-year degree by fixing tuition at all public universities so that students and parents can reliably plan ahead for these costs. And capping fee increases at no more than 3% a year. Our 58 Community Colleges are moving to an outcome-based education model and our Independent Colleges and Universities are helping to fill the void for the many needs-based scholarship students.
So what about the naysayers that just cannot stand for North Carolina to prosper and are desperate for bad news? Those folks keep saying, “It’s Not Enough!” Well, how much is enough? Consider that a teacher entering his 10th year of teaching has realized a 21% salary increase since Governor McCrory entered office; a teacher in his or her 19th year of teaching has seen a 15.5% increase.
Actually, we agree that we need to “Keep Pounding” and ensure that every teacher is prepared, supported and rewarded for their efforts and for improved student outcomes. And we need to complete the transition to the digital education environment. That prepares every student in our state for the demands of the twenty-first century job market. But, to ienore what has been accomplished thus far is dishonest and prevernts real conversations about necessary school reform from taking place.
As our state continues to grow, we will need to attract more teachers to the classroom as well as retain and support our experienced teachers and principals. Their guidance and experience is critical to our future success. They too deserve more pay and they need to extend their hand of welcome and support to our newest educators.
Winston Churchill once said, “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” These words of Churchill stand in stark contrast to the words that are preached on the other side of the political divide regarding education in North Carolina. If people simply looked a bit deeper at what the naysayers espouse, it would be ver obvious that much has been accomplished in a short amount of time.
We can choose ignorance and thus succumb to believing lies, but we know where that leads us. The truth is incontrovertible. When we can work together in a spirit of respect and understanding, we can climb to amazing heights and make life better for everyone.
The choice, as well as the responsibility, lies within each one of us.
D. Craig Horn
Representative, District 68
North Carolina General Assembly