Last updated: June 17. 2014 8:16AM - 626 Views

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With the Republican-controlled General Assembly’s continuing attempts to marginalize public education over the last several years, the recent news that an overwhelming majority of Ashe County educators are happy with their work environment is a validation of the steady leadership offered by our schools’ administrators and the Board of Education.

The road to happiness for our teachers has been marked with big potholes over the last five years: no salary increases, attempts to eliminate tenure, continuing attempts to eliminate teacher assistants in kindergarten through third grade, increases in classroom sizes, state-mandated changes in testing and providing less dollars for public education by offering tax dollars to private charter schools.

Through it all, our Board of Education and the school’s administrators have worked tirelessly to create a classroom environment that recognizes teachers’ efforts and have gone on record with their concerns, and letting their teachers know, that the mandates from Raleigh could have an impact on classroom morale.

To put it another way, our teachers know, our Board of Education’s “got their back.”

And it’s working. A whopping 93 percent of teachers in Ashe County believe their school is a good place to work and learn, which is eight percentage points higher than the state average.

Despite the good news about teacher morale, the news coming out of the General Assembly’s short session continues to be worrisome.

The Senate and the House adopted legislation that would replace the curriculum known nationally as Common Core. The curriculum, which has the support of groups that are on both sides of the aisle like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and dozens of Republican governors, is considered by nearly every education expert to be the best at providing the critical thinking skills needed by our students to thrive in our ever expanding technology-based economy.

As it stands now, only Gov. Pat McCrory with his veto stamp stands between the teachers and the General Assembly’s attempt to again rewrite the state’s curriculum, which is seems occurs every five years or so.

Teacher salaries continue to be a political hot button during the General Assembly’s short session.

The proposed Senate budget offers teachers an 11 percent pay increase, with one small caveat – if you take the money, you give up your tenure protections. This proposal is more like extortion than a meaningful attempt to increase teacher pay.

The House budget bill offers modest increases in teacher pay without losing the protections of tenure.

One can only wonder what compromise will be reached between the House and Senate on teacher pay. Hopefully, teachers will get the raise they deserve and not lose their career protections; which is what every teacher deserves for their tireless efforts and the awesome responsibility of educating our children.

Education in North Carolina has always been tossed about like a political football. For years, classroom size was the hot button issue in educational politics. Today, it’s teacher pay and charter schools.

And while the game continues in Raleigh, in Ashe County, our teachers, with the solid support of our Board of Education and administrators, tune out the politics and focus on what’s most important – providing the best environment for our children to learn.

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