JLF Triangle Blog

For Those Who Wish To Discuss Policy Rather Than Rant and Chant

While mainstream media devote time to the never-ending list of grievances of Democratic Party aligned liberals, a story of monumental import is waiting for serious media attention. North Carolina has a terrible problem recruiting teachers in math, science, and special education. Yet, as JLF’s Terry Stoops explains here, the state’s education schools produce pitifully few graduates in theses areas.

In 2013, the state’s colleges and universities produced 6,155 credentialed teachers, but few graduated with a teaching degree in a high-demand area. Among that year’s graduates, colleges and university teacher education programs in North Carolina combined to produce five physics teachers and 553 social studies teachers.

So if education schools aren’t getting the job done, one would think officials — educators — would seek ways to recruit experts from industry and entice the skilled to the classroom. Stoops continues:

I believe that decades of negligence by Democratic leaders in Raleigh had everything to do with their fidelity to an idea that teacher unions hold dear — no teacher deserves to make more money than any other.

Pressure from teacher unions is a major reason initiatives designed to differentiate teacher pay do not last. In 2001, North Carolina public schools began awarding annual bonuses of $1,800 to certified math, science, and special education teachers who chose to work in a low-income or low-performing school.

Elected officials discontinued the program in 2004. A study later published by Duke University researchers concluded that the short-lived bonus plan reduced mean turnover rates of the targeted teachers by 17 percent.

For years, the John Locke Foundation has urged lawmakers to provide substantial pay supplements to outstanding teachers in hard-to-staff subject areas. We believe teacher compensation should be based, at least in part, on actual labor market conditions.

To his credit, Gov. Pat McCrory’s newest teacher-compensation proposal includes salary supplements for teachers in hard-to-staff subjects. Hopefully, the Republican leadership in the General Assembly will embrace this sensible and long-overdue education reform.

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