When Someone Who Needs to be Educated About Education Writes an Op-Ed About Public Education

davenport

Charles Davenport Jr., an Editorial Board Member for the N&R, last year penned one of the most blatantly ignorant op-eds in recent memory when he made a claim that NC teachers were probably paid enough if not too much because “as far as academic rigor is concerned, education majors are not even in the same league with engineers, lawyers and scientists.”

This blog responded to Davenport’s  uneducated claims even asking that the N&R consider not publishing him.

Apparently that did not work because he just published another op-ed about public education that shows how uneducated he is about public education.

In last Sunday’s edition of the N&R, Davenport narrowed his already short-sighted view of education with “Do teachers, who are getting mediocre results, really deserve higher pay?” The text follows.

There they go again.

Thousands of teachers descended on Raleigh a few days ago to air their grievances before the General Assembly. Foremost among the protesters’ demands, as you might expect, is a significant increase in compensation for educators and support staff.

According to recent polling on the matter, most North Carolinians agree with the teachers. In a High Point University/News & Record poll three weeks ago, 75% of respondents expressed the belief that public school teachers are paid too little. In fact, 60% of respondents said they would agree to a tax increase in order to “raise teacher pay to the national average in five years.”

A few days later, a liberal organization called Public Policy Polling revealed the results of its own survey, in which 69% of the respondents expressed the belief that teacher salaries in North Carolina are too low.

I was not called to participate in either poll, but I have a few thoughts on the matter.

To begin with, the timing of the protest was not ideal. May 1 was not a scheduled day off for students. The N.C. Association of Educators chose to conduct the rally on a school day, which prompted disgruntled teachers and staff members to request the day off in order to attend the protest. Consequently, most school systems in the state canceled classes with short notice. Rarely mentioned is the inconvenience inflicted on thousands of parents of young children — parents forced to either take the day off work themselves, or scramble to arrange child care.

Mark Jewell, the president of the educators association, said, “We will never apologize for advocating on behalf of our most precious citizens: our children.”

But it is far from certain that the group’s highest priority is children. We rarely hear the organization lament — or strive to do anything about — the mediocre academic performance of public school students. The educators association’s objective is — and always has been — to increase funding for public education (and to increase teacher salaries). It has often succeeded in acquiring additional taxpayer money, but academic performance remains stagnant.

The purpose of public education is not to provide high-paying jobs but to teach children the fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic. By any objective measure, our public schools are failing about half of the students. Why should we reward teachers for lackluster results?

Speaking of academic struggles, the unfortunate truth is, those who choose to teach are a far cry from the “best and brightest.” Syndicated columnist Walter Williams recently spoke to the issue: “The major selected by the most ill-prepared students, sadly enough, is education. When students’ SAT scores are ranked by intended major, education majors place 26th on a list of 38.”

For the sake of comparison, the average pay for police officers in North Carolina is $47,000 a year, and the average for firefighters in the state is $37,130 a year. One could conceivably argue that teachers deserve more money than cops and firefighters, but that’s a steep hill to climb.

The educator association’s protest has drawn token criticism from some people on the right, which Jewell responds to by asking, “Why is it a left-wing agenda for kids to have a textbook?”

Why is it a right-wing agenda to expect kids to be able to read, write and understand basic math?”
The ambiguity, unfounded claims, and stench of someone who will always complain about public education keeps this op-ed from ever making a valid point.

In fact, it is too easy to dispute Davenport’s claims.

Foremost among the protesters’ demands, as you might expect, is a significant increase in compensation for educators and support staff.

Actually, teacher pay was not really the focal point of the march and rally except restoring graduate degree pay that had been the normal practice of this state until 2014 and raising the minimum wage for non-teaching staff members to $15/hour.

What Davenport seems to be arguing is that restoring graduate pay to previous levels and raising the minimum hourly wage to a point that is still below a living wage for an adult and child to live is a “significant increase.”

I was not called to participate in either poll, but I have a few thoughts on the matter.

Neither was I.

But it is far from certain that the group’s highest priority is children. We rarely hear the organization lament — or strive to do anything about — the mediocre academic performance of public school students. The educators association’s objective is — and always has been — to increase funding for public education (and to increase teacher salaries). It has often succeeded in acquiring additional taxpayer money, but academic performance remains stagnant.

No. As a member of NCAE and a veteran teacher with two children in the public school system, I can assure you that the people who marched and rallied on May 1st have students as our highest priority.

But that mediocre academic performance? Davenport might want to offer some proof of that. Which tests? Which measures? Which data sets is he talking about? Because I can assure him that most every student in my English classes could read his op-ed and specifically identify where he lacks in evidence and explanation of how that evidence backs up his claims.

Speaking of academic struggles, the unfortunate truth is, those who choose to teach are a far cry from the “best and brightest.” Syndicated columnist Walter Williams recently spoke to the issue: “The major selected by the most ill-prepared students, sadly enough, is education. When students’ SAT scores are ranked by intended major, education majors place 26th on a list of 38.”

This is a recycled argument by Davenport. It’s what the 2018 op-ed focused on.

Interestingly enough, many teachers like myself and many others didn’t major in education. Our certification was an add-on or was a minor or was through another program. Most of the teachers I teach with majored in the field that they are actually teaching.

If Davenport truly believes that then I would dare him to address that in education classes at the universities in this state with schools of education. There is one right down the road at UNC-G. Maybe UNC-CH? Maybe App? Maybe even where I got my degrees – Wake Forest.

And quoting Walter Williams, an economist funded by the Koch brothers at George Mason University? That’s not partisan at all.

According to the National Education Association, average teacher pay in North Carolina is about $54,000 a year, which ranks 29th in the nation.

I would love to hear Davenport explain how that very average salary can be sustained by the current salary schedule given by the NCGA when verteran teachers retire or leave the profession.

I suspect that most people, if told they could work 10 months a year doing something they love, and make $54,000, would leap at the opportunity. Most would be content, if not elated. Very few, I suspect, would be protesting.

Maybe Davenport can try doing one of those polls since he didn’t get to participate in the other two that he mentioned.

“Most people” would “leap at the possibility”? That must explain why we do not have a teacher shortage in NC… wait a second.

And that “teachers only have to work ten months out of the year” argument is really old and has nothing to do with teachers.

Davenport mistakes eight weeks of vacation with what is actually unemployment. Teachers have 10-month contracts. What he calls “vacation” is actually unpaid time that is spent by many getting renewed certification, professional development, or advanced degrees—all of which are paid with teachers’ own money that gets taxed by the state.

Furthermore, if Davenport does not like that fact that teachers must abide by a 10-month contract and not a 12-month one, then he can lobby the state legislature to send students to school for eight more weeks. That’s right, Davenport can get the state to dismiss the tourist lobbyists and ask to finance the needs to allow for more school days.

As a teacher, I would be there. Students could learn more and may not suffer from a summer “gap” in retaining things they have learned.

For the sake of comparison, the average pay for police officers in North Carolina is $47,000 a year, and the average for firefighters in the state is $37,130 a year. One could conceivably argue that teachers deserve more money than cops and firefighters, but that’s a steep hill to climb.

Teachers are state employees. Police officers and firefighters are paid by local counties and municipalities. But it is interesting that Davenport bring up the average salaries of those public servants because it is further proof that public servants do not make nearly as much as they deserve.

Why is it a right-wing agenda to expect kids to be able to read, write and understand basic math?

Updated textbooks would actually really help in this “expectation.”