Legislators to teachers: We're broke and fickle

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Just as the school year starts, many states are coming to grips with some sorrowful adjustments to their budgets. Predictably, teacher bonuses are among the first ?luxuries? to get axed, as just happened in North Carolina. There the state legislature has slashed the $1,500 bonus promised to teachers working in schools that met the state standards. Apparently those standards didn?t prove to be too much of a challenge since four out of every five teachers in the state were declared eligible. The bonus redux amounts to just over $1,000.

State legislators everywhere seem enamored by these bonuses, believing that they engender such good will with teachers. Any honest teacher will tell you, while happy to take the cash, that piddling bonuses 1) fail to motivate them to do anything they wouldn?t have done anyway; 2) are too often based on a system of reward that either ends up unfairly compensating some or, alternatively, blanketing all. And far too often, the bonus program is rescinded on the heels of its having been approved. If the bonuses aren't going to be enough to make a substantial difference in a teacher's income, why not give them something to make their jobs a little easier? Buy them new laptops or even a new couch for the teachers' lounge. At least then, legislators could rest assured that teachers are thinking nice thoughts about them every time they sink into the new upholstery.

North Carolina earns the label of stingiest state for the month of August. Not only did it chop the bonus program, it?s still the only state in the country that makes teachers pay for their own subs if they take either of their two personal days each year. Teachers were charged $50 to pay for a sub even if there were no students present on the day they took off (as teachers work ten days a year without students present). While the legislature couldn?t come up with the $3.8 million needed to eliminate the ?sub tax,??? it did put a stop to districts punishing teachers for daring to take a personal day by charging teachers for subs that weren?t needed. Generous!