Why This Teacher “Bonus” is a Symptom of a Deeper Problem

The recent exposure of the May 10th Forsyth County Board of Commissioners meeting (when the WSFCS superintendent and school board chair shared their budget request) has highlighted a rather contentious  issue within the teaching community: teacher supplements. More importantly, it brings to light the need for an audit of how items are communicated between elected officials.

It is no secret that in a rather short period of time, WSFCS’s teacher supplement schedule has begun to lag behind other LEA’s in the state. What once was a “top-five” teacher supplement now ranks 25th in the state. Granted that every system in NC has its own obstacles in how it funds local priorities, what was communicated according the entire video of the May 10th meeting by the system superintendent was that a budget request hinged on what the state was to finance for public education in their summer session.

Ironically, while WSFCS was “waiting,” other LEA’s still raised their teacher supplements under the same conditions as they were waiting for the same state to issue the same final budget decision.

localsupplements

To call raising teacher supplements a “priority” and not even include it in a budget request raises questions. But the idea of a singular “bonus” that is supposed to net a total of $300 for each teacher seems to be a quick defensive measure to cover for a lack of “follow through” should really give those questions more volume.

Yes, a $300 bonus does equal a sum of money that any teacher could use. For some teachers, it would be a higher amount than what they would receive in a teacher supplement increase based on experience. But it is a singular action.

Raises in teacher supplements are not singular. They are ongoing investments to recruit and retain teachers  – good teachers for entire careers to give continuity to schools and help them succeed.

Some may argue that in order to increase teacher supplements in Forsyth County, we would have to raise taxes. Actually, we are sitting on a surplus in the school budget this year, but to dismiss the idea of “raising taxes” to finance a local endeavor that benefits the community just because it is “raising taxes” seems shallow. There’s more to it than that.

What the NCGA has done in cutting corporate tax rates alone forces local systems to rely more on local funds. Look at HB514 and what it could potentially do to not only hurt public schools but also use property taxes to fund those hurtful endeavors. Look at the “class size chaos” debacle and see that the need to not only fight locally for funds is paramount, but the need to fight statewide for them is as important. And part of that is having a BOE and school system that is willing to openly fight for and advocate for the local school systems.

Actually when it comes to property taxes, Forsyth is nowhere near the top of the state counties in rates: https://www.ncdor.gov/taxes/north-carolinas-property-tax-system/property-tax-rates.

In the case of sales tax rates, the same applies; Forsyth is again nowhere near the top: https://www.ncdor.gov/taxes/sales-and-use-taxes/sales-and-use-tax-rates/sales-and-use-tax-rates-effective-april-1-2017.

And a lot about the value of property is tied up in the value of the local public school system. When people look for housing in North Carolina and had school-aged children, they may have asked a real-estate agent, “What school services this area?” It is commonly known that a real-estate agent cannot answer this question because of the Fair Housing Act. Talking about the reputation of the schools can cast an unfair light on an area. That can affect real-estate values.

Schools and real-estate prices are very much connected. This excerpt form an NPR expose is rather telling:

It’s well known in the real estate industry that highly rated schools translate into higher housing values. Several studies confirm this and even put a dollar figure on it: an average premium of $50 a square foot, in a 2013 national study.

Nothing is tied to personal wealth as the value of property owned. And schools do not run themselves. Communities need great teachers to make schools work well. Forsyth County (and North Carolina) is losing teachers.

Back to the bonus versus teacher supplement argument:

The circumstances that these bonuses are being given seem to not even come from a sustained plan.  Most teachers found out that they were to receive a bonus after they found out that a request for funds to increase teacher supplements was never given.

But ultimately, the use of a bonus instead of going ahead and requesting the funds to begin a sustainable increase in teacher supplements is a matter of trying to equate a “reward” with actual “respect.” It brought to mind that there are many stark differences between rewards and respect.

  • A reward sounds like something that can be used as a political ploy. Respect needs no political prompt.
  • A reward could be a one-time gift. Respect is continuous and grows.
  • A reward is a reaction to something. Respect guides your actions.
  • A reward is giving teachers a small bonus that gets taxed by the state. Respect would be to bring teacher supplements back to its previous ranking.

And a reward is promising to be more transparent in how issues are communicated between governing entities.

Respect is never having to have this be an issue in the first place.

 

 

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