North Carolina Should Get Back to the ROOTS of the Teaching Fellows Program, Not Just the STEM

It is rather odd that in the same session that produced the nebulous and de-professionalizing SB599 bill a sanitized and highly truncated version of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program was reintroduced.

teaching fellows

As reported by Matthew Adams in the “Under The Dome” section of the News & Observer on July 1st,

North Carolina will pay college tuition costs for students who commit to teaching science, technology, engineering, math or special education within the state.

The N.C. General Assembly eliminated a similar program in 2011. The Teaching Fellows program dated to 1986 and awarded loans each year to pay four years of tuition for 500 students who agreed to pay back the loan by teaching in the state for four years.

Under the revived Teaching Fellows program, forgivable loans of $8,250 each year will go to 160 students as long as they commit to teaching in special education or STEM fields. The new program was included in the state budget that the legislature enacted over a veto from Gov. Roy Cooper, who wanted more education spending (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article159267114.html).

Given that most professions which hire use graduates with degrees in those selected fields pay much more than a public school teacher, this current General Assembly has shown that it will not budge on raising the monetary rewards of teaching those chosen fields.

What also needs not be mentioned is that having 160 potential teachers at “only one of five public or private universities to be selected by an appointed committee by Nov. 15” will not come anywhere to replacing 500 potential teachers at multiple campuses who were for 25 years also walking advertisements for teaching in the state that was at one time committed to public schools.

And it doesn’t take a person with a science, technology, engineering, or math degree to figure out that the committee appointed to select the campuses for the new Teaching Fellows Program will be part of a group that has not listened to science, not used technology appropriately, has engineered a gerrymandered state, and used fuzzy math to explain horrible policies.

But there is a large amount of sadistic irony in “reviving” a minor version of the Teaching Fellows for STEM subjects because the very people who are crafting this piece of “makeup” legislation really do not appreciate the very subject areas that they are focusing on preparing teachers for.

When one thinks of science and the state of North Carolina it is hard not to think of the Duke coal ash spills and the ensuing environmental concerns for clean drinking water in areas of the state.

If science involves studying the environment and if legislators are so concerned with making sure that our students have good science teachers with degrees from good institutions, then should not those same legislators be more willing to accept what science has taught us?

Like effects of fracking?

Like effects of “garbage juice”?

Like effects of hog waste on property?

If technology is important, should legislators not use it more effectively or promote it more effectively? With an age of digital commerce and distance bridging capability, it is rather necessary for a state to be inviting to technological corporations as a way of helping grow the economy.

But if you’re North Carolina, you pass a law like HB2 that makes it easy for any company to not set up business or even do business in the state. The effects of that law will always be under debate, but it surely kept Pat McCrory from being the only sitting governor who was seeking reelection to not win.

In NC history.

In a state that went for Donald Trump.

And most of the engineering that has occurred on West Jones Street seems to have been rather destructive than constructive. This is the same legislative body that has secretly colluded to pass partisan bills in multiple special sessions which have forced so much legal entanglements that hardly a person in power is not involved in a court case that keeps him or her from fulfilling duties.

Ask Elaine Marshall, who now has an impeachment proceeding thrown her way for doing her job and for being a democrat. That’s engineering.

Ask Gov. Cooper, who is having to go to court just to protect his constitutional given powers. That’s engineering.

Ask Mark Johnson who, well, who has been engineered to be a puppet in the Department of Public Instruction for the GOP powers in Raleigh to help further privatize public education.

And math? Just getting lawmakers to admit that there is a major difference between “actual” and “average” when it comes to discussing money actually spent on public education would be a start.

Just ask a veteran teacher.

Or Senator Jerry Tillman who thinks that two math curriculums can be taught in one class by one teacher who might be teaching over thirty students at one time because class caps have been removed in high schools by the same people who will be naming a committee to select campuses for the new Teaching Fellows.

Oh, and for those wonderful people who may devote themselves to teaching Special Education classes? This is the same lawmaking body that has threatened teacher assistant positions across the state while applauding the appointment of secretary of education who has no idea of what IDEA is.

So while focusing on STEM with this watered-down version of a once fantastic program, maybe these lawmakers should go to the ROOTS of the problems in our state.

They may find themselves there.

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