Charlotte Observer editorial offers its own “education in politics”

I am not surprised that the Charlotte Observer editorial staff is attacking the Republican chairs of the North Carolina Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force, Rep. Rob Bryan and Sen. Jerry Tillman.

I am also not surprised that the editorial staff dedicated so much ink praising Democratic task force member Rep. Tricia Cotham, a legislator who I have always respected despite our ideological differences.

But I have to ask.  What, exactly, were Rep. Cotham’s contributions to the task force?

Do we have a record of email exchanges between Cotham and the co-chairs of the task force?  In other words, the editors assume that she was an active participant, but I see no evidence of that.

I do see evidence that Cotham used the task force as her personal soapbox.  Take her comment from the final meeting of the task force, for example:

It comes down to a few simple questions: Do we value children? Do we value teachers? Do we value education as an economic driver?

How did this inane statement advance the work of the task force or even contribute to the debate about teacher compensation?  It didn’t.  It was, in the words of Observer editors, “an education in politics.”

And let’s talk about the obvious.  The task force conducted four meetings, and the fourth one was a discussion of the final report.  Given that constraint, why would anyone expect a final report that addresses the mind-boggling complexities of teacher compensation?  As I mentioned in my weekly newsletter, had the final recommendations offered the specific policy recommendations desired by some members of the task force, they would have complained that there was insufficient testimony to warrant detailed recommendations. And they would have been correct!

After all, teacher compensation does not exist in a vacuum.  For one, it is situated within the local, state, and national labor markets.  Moreover, teacher compensation decisions are contingent on the amount of resources obtained from taxpayers, as well as the allocation of those resources to thousands of state government operations.  Many other functions receive a slice of the state budget pie, a point that is lost on those advocating huge increases in teacher pay.

Finally, let’s talk about this raising teacher pay to the “national average” business.  Observer editors think it is a cut and dry issue.  It isn’t.  Legislators could spend days examining pertinent issues surrounding the “national average,” such as cost-of-living, benefits, and the role of federal and local governments.

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