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Opinion Letters Saying goodbye ...

Delight is had when discovering something wonderful and tremendous loss is experienced when greatness passes. Statistics came out today, based on the past year and North Carolina was nationally ranked by CNBC in third place in the Top States for Business, even during this recession. Education is one of the 43 factors that help a state to earn this ranking. Not shabby for an educational system that has been slandered for convenience this budget year.

However, our state, recently considered a leader in education, was dealt knee-buckling blows by the state budget decisions. Why was the impact felt so harshly?

Reminder: During the last two years of recession, we had already lost many educators and personnel. This year, core factors of educational prosperity were toppled. It was as simple as Samson’s haircut! Our concerns needed to be discussed, face-to-face. Locally, congratulations go to Shelley Marshall for continued pursuit of a meeting with Senator Davis and for Macon County Educators Association for advertising it. Even though the horse was out of the barn, so to speak, the budget was passed; members of the community with educational concerns were able to speak with Sen. Davis, publicly. As an educator, I felt supported by their concerns.

Due to legislative decisions to not continue the one cent tax, and to further cut education, some of our premier pillars for teaching and therefore, learning were eliminated or greatly reduced. These initiatives were hallmarks of N.C.’s educational progress and were measures that had helped us to improve scores, lower dropouts, and draw industry to our state. Our rapidly changing society, which influenced child development, technology, and the workforce, caused the needs of the state to change and required innovative immediate and long-term, professional development approaches.

Eliminated: The North Carolina Teacher Academy closed this month after 18 years of service. The NCTA used leading authorities to train teachers that were competitively selected, in research-based methods in education. Those teacher trainers then practiced and critiqued the methods and then facilitated that learning with their peers, fellow teachers. The research was shared, but the application was emphasized with experiential workshops. Teachers left NCTA with an action plan in place, to apply their learning in a meaningful way to make a difference in achievement. Follow-up workshops reviewed evidences that the practices were in place and gave teachers an opportunity to share feedback for further improvement. As N.C.’s needs evolved, so did the NCTA. N.C. Teacher Academy undertook the study and then started training in those areas, such as differentiated learning, literacy, technology, etc. It was the state’s workhorse and it was put down while it was still healthy.

Eliminated: The Teaching Fellows program was created to attract the best and the brightest to teaching, despite their income. It is phasing out with the graduates of the program. In a discussion with a local Teaching Fellow, it was shared that without this enlarging, educational opportunity, many of the well-qualified candidates may not be able to go to the university level of higher education. This opportunity was created to exemplify a standard and fit the classrooms with the “best” of professionals from young North Carolinians. N.C. needed teachers, and this long-term program complemented emergency measures to attract proven, professionals from any state to N.C. in the ’90s, thus creating the heavier load on our retirement health system. N.C. had to improve education and it did. The Teaching Fellows program has fed outstanding educators to our schools, including mine, and it is now being “put down” in its prime.

Sen. Davis helped save a minimized NCCAT, which is to be saluted. Also, he helped secure some support for schools that were K-12, like Highlands and Nantahala; thereby, Macon County attained a few more state positions to help the county fill their needs.

Advertised heavily are the 1,100 positions to slightly lower the classroom count in K-3 for a better chance to improve reading. However, the legislation was weak and unclear about how it would be enacted with less money overall. Also, it is proving to be false (advertising?) or inexperience in practice that there will be no classroom teachers cut.

They are dropping like flies all over N.C. Hiding “options” behind the guise of local flexibility are terms that basically, mean: Good luck! Recurring expenses are reccurring and administration and support services are critical for today’s child and safety. Not believing that we need to do anything other than educate children at school will not wash, given our society. You cannot wish poverty and change away, but you can love, work and educate every North Carolinian’s child when they come to school.

Why was the penny saved? Sen. Davis indicated that we would have more change in our pocket to stimulate the economy. However, at the meeting, we heard no real path to job creation. Well, you could possibly get a job working at a charter school for probably less pay. Additionally, the charter schools’ cap was opened wide at the poorest of times. This is confusing, since the majority of charter schools do not surpass the (other) public schools, and more lag behind than succeed.

I am reminded of how my younger sister used to watch scary movies when we were little, with her fingers over her eyes, but spread so she could see between them. I never understood it; I don’t want to pretend I can’t see something even if it disappears in an untimely fashion like NCTA, Teaching Fellows, and school systems losing valuable personnel. I want to keep my eyes open while I pay 2.5 cents more tax per gallon of gas, because I know that we need our roads improved. Also, I will know that the taxes were passed by the same folks that would not continue to pay a one cent tax for education.

Rena Sutton — Franklin, N.C.

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