There are several state legislatures that are working hard to earn the "Worst Legislature in America" medal. Florida, where it's cool to use terminally ill children as political tools and their families as punching bags, has always been a strong contender. New York State staked its claim by taking the extraordinary measure of overruling local government because they didn't like its decision. Several states have worked to promote the teaching profession by stripping it of any professional trappings like decent pay and job security.
But when it comes to suck, North Carolina is a tough state to beat.
The legislature tried to make tenure go away entirely, but was frustrated to discover that they could not legally revoke tenure for people who already had it. But the wily legislators realized that they had a unique piece of leverage in a state where teachers' real-dollar wages have dropped every year for seven years.
The proposal is simple. NC teachers can have a raise, or they can have job security. They cannot have both.
They may have a raise. And who knows. Some day they might get another one. But they can also be fired for being too expensive. Or they can have job security, but Senate Leader Phil Berger warns that they will probably never see another raise again.
The message is as clear as it is simple:
North Carolina legislators do not want teaching to be a career in their state.
If you want to devote your career, your lifetime of work, to teaching, you cannot do it in North Carolina.
If you want to support a family, live like a grown-up, experience a lifetime of success teaching students, you cannot do it in North Carolina.
We often talk about how a state "destroys" or "ruins" teaching as a profession, but often that's a bit of exaggeration and what we really mean is that they make it very, very hard to stay in teaching. But North Carolina proposes to actually do it-- to actually make teaching untenable as a career for self-supporting grown-ups. This goes past disrespect; this is demolition.
There is no upside in this for North Carolina. None. There is no benefit for a state that drives the most qualified teachers away. There is no benefit for a state system that becomes the system of last resort (Motto: Come see us if nobody else will hire you for a real job). There is no plus in telling new job applicants, "We intend to screw you over as a matter of policy." There is no benefit to students being taught by teachers who are working three jobs to make ends meet ("Sorry, but I won't be grading your papers until I get a night off from Piggly Wiggly"). There is no benefit to school environments when a state tells students, "Nobody needs to treat teachers with respect." There is no benefit for a state to tell its young people, "Hey, if you want to be a teacher when you grow up, y'all are gonna need to get the hell out of here."
There's plenty of benefit for other folks, kind of like the benefit of having one less hungry family show up for buffet night at Pizza Hut. Virginia can continue its teacher recruitment program ("Hey teachers! We're not great, but we sure as hell aren't North Carolina"). And I suppose this makes North Carolina a perfect staging area for TFA bodies
My heart goes out to people in North Carolina. If it were the place I was born and bred, I would be sadder than words can say, sad that my own people wanted to trash our state, sad that they want to actively discourage good teachers from working there, sad that they had zero interest in trying to get the best possible system in place for their children. Hell, I'm not from NC and it still makes me pretty sad.
So kudos to you, NC legislature. Tomorrow may bring new assaults on education from a different assortment of political twits, but for today, you are, in fact, the worst legislature in all of America.