LETTER: Setting the record straight

Oct. 08, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

To the Editor:

The N.C. Democratic Party advertisement in The Herald on Sept. 26, and Mark Coggins's letter to the editor on the same date, provide more clear evidence that Democrats choose to misrepresent sobering facts about the funding of North Carolina public schools.

Of course, the news media joins this herd mentality that helps perpetuate this narrative, regardless of the truthfulness.

Contrary to the Democrats' ad and Mr. Coggins' letter, the Republican-led N.C. General Assembly and Gov. McCrory passed some historic legislation to improve K-12 education during the last session. The legislation included:

* A funding increase of almost 5 percent over last year, from $7,506,553,067 in 2012-13 to $7,867,960,649 in 2013-2014.

* The state's first locally controlled merit pay program for teachers was funded. Beginning in 2014, districts can reward deserving teachers with a significant increase in pay.

* The teacher tenure system — lifetime employment for teachers — was ended. Local school districts will have the authority to remove poor-performing personnel from classrooms.

* Classroom instructional time was improved by reducing unnecessary testing and requiring that end-of-grade tests be administered during the last two weeks of the school year.

* In 2014, eligible families can apply for vouchers for their school-age children. This will allow some low-income parents to send their child to a private school of their choice.

* Republicans accomplished this while reducing individual and corporate income taxes in the coming years. This is important to the economic well-being of every family in the state.

I have been teaching mathematics almost nonstop for more than 30 years. My annual gross pay was about $13,000 when I began teaching in 1982. Since the “Education Governor,” Jim Hunt and the Democratic-led N.C. government allowed no raises for teachers that year, my second year salary was the same. From 1982 until 2012, the Democrats did little to improve teacher pay. Teacher pay in N.C. still ranks 45th in the country.

The Democrats want to blame Republicans for their mismanagement and poorly used taxpayer dollars. Republicans were not in charge for 140 years, but they are taking the right steps to clean it up, and teachers and parents should be grateful.

The above facts are painful reading for some, and do not fit the spin that appears almost daily in the news media. But at some point, the record needs to be set straight.

Melissa Staley