Kristine Kaiser: GOP can support N.C. education

Oct. 11, 2013 @ 07:18 PM

The North Carolina Democratic Party recently released ads strongly rebuking Gov. Pat McCrory and the General Assembly for their mostly inadequate education policies.
When it comes to teachers, the ads suggest that the GOP-led Legislature should study “the three Rs, raises, resources and respect” The strategic ads have been effective and are said to be making some lawmakers take notice. Polls numbers are moving.
Teachers haven’t had raises in years, and they feel that they are not respected. The K-12 budget cuts greatly diminish the teacher’s resources in districts, resources like teaching assistants. The Democratic Party is claiming the concern over education as its own.  If the GOP lets them, the Democrats are ready to say that they are the party of education.
And so far, they are correct. The Republicans voted to give tax cuts to the wealthiest North Carolinians instead of giving teachers long overdue raises. Yet, GOPers must reconsider when it comes to their priorities. Education simply cannot stay a partisan matter. Republicans must come around and realize that everyone values education.
We often hear that education is about the future, it is an investment in the state’s economy, workforce.  At a time when people expect instant results for their effort and money, it seems, education fails to move the hearts and minds of legislators.
When is the return? Is it today? Is it tomorrow? Is it years from now? Foresight does require imagination. Legislators must imagine the very young as willing members of a capable society. The children of today will create the jobs of tomorrow, but only if we invest in education, only if we have the foresight to act and to allocate money for teachers.
Unfortunately, in the present, many teachers feel let down. They feel that legislators cannot imagine teachers’ worth: lawmakers do not understand the daily trials of the teaching profession.
Teachers think that our elected policy-makers do not know about the stresses of the real classroom, the long hours devoted to grading papers, and the real challenges of disciplining. The teacher feels like one who is left out, even taken for granted. N.C. teachers’ salaries rank 46th nationally, and it is expected that they’ll decline further.
The state does not allow its public employees to strike; it is against the law. So how do teachers get their grievances through to lawmakers? They do not have leverage at a bargaining table.
According the Raleigh News and Observer, some educators are now considering a statewide walkout on Nov. 4. It would be a day when teachers would make personal appointments or be otherwise absent. With this group action, some hope that they will be heard. Some hope that lawmakers will open their eyes and ears and raise teachers’ pay.
I say that the walkout will work against teachers in the end; they will be vilified. They will be blamed. People will say that the absent teachers do not care about their students. Some folks will call the missing teachers unprofessional. It is better to let politics take care of itself. The recent NCDP ads must be frightening to the GOPers.
The state GOP cannot let the Democrats be the party of education. With the ads, GOP legislators are likely to surmise that it is time to do something for teachers in our state. They might raise teachers’ pay. That would be the easiest way to prove that GOPers aren’t so bad after all. Republican legislators need all the goodwill that they find.

Kristine Kaiser is a writer living in Kernersville. Contact her for comments at: Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.