DOBSON — Mount Airy City Schools superintendent Dr. Greg Little raised serious concerns about the state of education in North Carolina as he made his final budget request in his capacity with the city school district.
“It’s an absolute shame,” remarked Little in explaining his concern education isn’t a priority for state officials.
“The state of North Carolina has no vision except to completely dismantle public education.”
In a subsequent interview Little said his claims aren’t unfounded, rattling off a list of issues he’s seen develop in the state’s public education system.
The outgoing superintendent, who will start work at a district in South Carolina in May, said his concerns aren’t politically motivated. It’s a moral issue for Little.
“We should be planting the flag in the ground and saying, ‘Public education is a cornerstone of democracy,’” said Little.
Among Little’s concerns is attracting qualified teachers to North Carolina and keeping them in the state. He said that’s a tall order given the circumstances.
“The state ranks in the 40s for teacher pay and at the bottom for principal pay,” explained Little.
Little also noted his concerns are backed by research and studies.
A 2012 National Education Association study shows only four states offer lower average teacher salaries than North Carolina. A WalletHub study indicates the state is trailed only by West Virginia in the quality of opportunities it offers its teachers.
“We are driving teachers away by increasing accountability while decreasing benefits and opportunities,” said Little. “Enrollment in North Carolina teaching institutions is down by 30 percent.”
Little added the state’s “A through F” grading system for public schools purposefully tries to identify schools as “failing.”
“It makes absolutely no sense.”
While public schools are “failing” in the state’s grading system, public money is being funnelled elsewhere, according to Little.
“Millions of dollars are being pumped into a system with no public accountability,” said Little in reference to charter schools. “We have no idea if the system is working, and they are increasing spending.”
Little said the state also went down another road of alternative education recently, allowing students to attend a virtual charter school.
“Across the nation, it’s been proven they don’t work,” noted Little.
Little said state officials also are considering allowing an achievement school district like Tennessee did in 2011. The move has been “disastrous” for that state.
In the plan, the state would allow five school districts it deems are failing to be taken over and run by private entities.
Little said public school funding affects the pocketbooks of more than just teachers.
“Through achievement school districts, charter schools and virtual academies, you could see millions of taxpayer dollars leave the state.”
Little explained many of the alternative education sources are operated by businesses which are headquartered outside the state.
Little said the issues surrounding public education are multi-faceted, and without addressing them, the state will see its public education system slip more deeply into disrepair.
“From example to example to example, the state is hurting education,” said Little. “This is just the cliff-note version.”
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.