Lt. Gov. Dan Forest wants to give new meaning to the term “teacher’s license.” He wants the state to issue special “I-support-teachers” license plates with the proceeds going to boost teacher salaries. What’s next? A cake sale at the legislative cafeteria? Maybe a car wash at the Governor’s Mansion?
Forest no doubt means well, but his proposal serves only to illustrate how clueless conservatives like himself are about teacher pay. North Carolina’s public school teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation. They are frustrated by the Republican-led General Assembly’s stingy allocations and deceptive approaches to raising pay. Many are quitting. As the economy improves and more options open, the departures will increase.
People don’t need to improve teacher pay by handing over $50 for a plate that attests to their support. All taxpayers are already supporting teachers. It’s up to legislators to put the proper share of tax dollars into teacher salaries.
Forest would put the license plate proceeds into the North Carolina Education Endowment Fund he created last May. The fund also seeks contributions from individuals and corporations. That’s fine, but it’s no substitute for the state’s meeting its obligation to pay teachers adequately.
Unless the state makes a commitment to increasing teacher salaries to a competitive level, many of its teachers are going to take off for states that do. Then the state’s existing license plates also will carry a message about North Carolina’s support for teachers – first in flight.