Teachers deserve more, but ... wow

Sep. 22, 2013 @ 01:47 AM

North Carolina’s teachers deserve better than they have gotten in recent years from this state’s legislature.

They are paid too little, shown too little respect, given inadequate tools to do the job in the modern age, and too often blamed for real and perceived wrongs in the schools.

But what Lt. Gov. Dan Forest called for Wednesday in Greensboro is pure insanity.

The Greensboro News & Record reported that Forest called for North Carolina to pay the nation’s highest teaching salaries and to put wireless broadband Internet – along with the devices students need to use it – into every school in the state.

Uh … OK. Great idea.

How are you going to pay for that, Dan? It’s not an insignificant question.

New York, which has a vastly higher cost of living, has the highest average salaries at $75,279 a year, according to National Education Association figures. North Carolina, ranked 46th, currently pays an average of $46,791. Take the difference between those figures, multiply it by 81,020 teachers and you get a $2.3 billion gap to close.

Forest proposes closing that gap over perhaps a decade or more, and says it can be done without raising taxes, but geez Louise, that’s a heckuva gap.

Forest is a Tea Party conservative who until now was best known for a war of words with the state’s Department of Public Instruction over curriculum issues.

But something seemed to get into him at the Greensboro appearance. The News & Record reported that he "spoke excitedly" about a South Korean teacher who makes $4 million a year -- Kim Ki-Hoon, who the Wall Street Journal reported in August makes his millions by teaching English primarily via paid Internet video in the nation’s private, after-school tutoring academies.

Note that Kim is not a school teacher, he is an after-school tutor in a nation rife with after-school tutoring academies, yet his example is being held up by some conservatives, evidently including Forest, as evidence that a free marketplace in education in the U.S. could allow tutoring superstars to flourish.

Maybe. But whether one extreme case – if there is a second instructor on the planet who makes even $1 million as an after-school tutor, so far he or she is not as famous as Kim – can become even the basis for a model that can account for the vast majority of students or teachers in this state is an argument for another day.

Asked by the newspaper whether he envisions the best North Carolina teachers making more than $100,000 a year, Forest replied, “Why not?”

Yes, why not? After all, it’s only money.