Classroom dollars shell game

Published 10:09 am Thursday, July 28, 2011

“It’s for the children.”

That mantra is popular among educational administrators in every public school system in North Carolina and throughout the United States. School administrators lobby local leaders – those holding the purse strings of county government – long and hard for additional dollars to be used in the classroom. They say that financial investment will ensure our local children are prepared for the challenges of working within a global economy.

That’s a fair and accurate statement. We all know that providing a quality secondary education, a process guided by highly-skilled teachers, is the foundation on which our children will use to build towards a successful future in both life and business. But what happens when those extra funds are derailed en route to the classroom? Who becomes the victim in that financial shell game?

Over the past several years, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners and the county’s Board of Education have debated the need for salary supplements for educators. A number of school systems, especially those in small, rural areas like Northampton County, use supplements as a way to attract and retain quality teachers. There’s nothing wrong in using this type of financial incentive, as long as it finds its intended destination.

There is the rub. Those dollars are going to administrators rather than teachers in Northampton County.

The News Herald recently discovered that of the more than $477,000 in supplemental pay and bonuses listed in the 2011-12 Northampton County Public Schools budget, only $20,690 is earmarked for teachers. Meanwhile, some $444,000 is set aside for non-classroom supplements, while bonuses budgeted for this coming school year total $12,500.

The supplements and bonuses for the superintendent and assistant superintendent alone combine for more extra pay ($26,724) than received by all the teachers in the system.

That leaves us to ponder if it really is for the children? We hope the taxpaying citizens of Northampton County are wondering, as well.

– The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald