Letter: Soucek, Starnes ask fair questions

Dec. 08, 2013 @ 01:36 AM

To the editor:

This letter is in response to the editorial published in Nov. 24 edition of the Lenoir News-Topic that suggested that Sen. Dan Soucek was way out of line to suggest local funding of teacher assistants at the Nov. 19 education forum at CCC&TI. It also asked where this “pot of gold” local funding would come from. The reality of the situation is that this pot of local funding already exists and has for many years. Each county in N.C. historically uses local tax dollars to fund and supplement positions in their district schools. One locally funded item in each county are supplements (i.e. bonuses) paid to school employees each year. These stipends are in each county's school budget and reflect the educational values of the area. The N.C. Department of Public Instruction publishes counties’ average supplements, and the latest DPI data available is for 2010-2011 school year.

A comparison of Caldwell County and our neighbors, Watauga and Catawba, will reflect where different education priorities lie at the local level.

Average Teacher Supplements: In 2011, Watauga on average paid teachers a $2,355 bonus for the job they did. Catawba paid $2,960/teacher. Caldwell paid $1,374/teacher.

Average Coach Supplements: Watauga on average paid $3,500/coach. Catawba paid $899/coach. Caldwell paid $3,890/coach.

Superintendent Bonus: Watauga paid $2,600 to its superintendent. Catawba did not pay a bonus to its superintendent in 2011. Caldwell paid $49,500 to its superintendent.

These supplements/bonuses show that Caldwell’s education leadership and school board value upper levels of education management and sports coaching over the work of classroom teachers. This is tantamount to what Rep. Edgar Starnes was saying at the September PTA meeting at Hibriten High, when he produced the allocations to Caldwell County from the legislature. Only a few line items were mandatory state and federal spending. The vast majority of the $22 million allocated to Caldwell County Schools is spent at the discretion of our school system.

If you agree that our county’s coaches should draw a supplement that is almost three times higher than what the average teacher draws, then you are in luck and your county school system’s values are in line with yours. But if you feel these are misplaced priorities, then you have to ask yourself if Caldwell County Schools has its educational funding priorities in order and should it get them in order before it demands more from the state coffers. In that case, one has to admit that Rep. Starnes and Sen. Soucek are asking the citizens of Caldwell County appropriate and fair questions.

Maleah Haas