The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday January 22nd

Don’t target teachers: A possible phasing out of Teaching Fellows would hurt N.C.

The version of the state budget proposed by the N.C. Senate calls for the phasing out of a major government scholarship — the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program — by the end of the 2015 school year.

The attempt by the legislature to bring an abrupt end to one of the state’s most beneficial initiatives has left many, including the members of this editorial board, scratching their heads.

The budget cuts facing North Carolina present a daunting challenge. The state simply cannot continue spending at the current level if it wishes to avoid major fiscal crisis. But while the trimming of unnecessary government funding is fundamentally necessary to ensure that the state remains financially solvent, these cuts must be thoroughly analyzed before they are put into effect to determine their long-term impact.

Since its inaugural class in 1987, the scholarship has provided North Carolinians aspiring to be teachers with a further financial incentive to pursue public education as a career: $26,000 over four years. This program allows teachers-in-training to attend college at a substantially reduced cost.

The individual financial assistance that the scholarship provides to students is, however, perhaps its least significant contribution.

Where the program really stands out from the pack is in its impact in the classrooms of North Carolina elementary, middle and high schools.

The $26,000 scholarship offers students a simple trade: four years of assistance during college in exchange for four years of teaching service in a North Carolina public school.

The service-oriented nature of the Teaching Fellows program puts some of North Carolina’s most promising scholars in a place where they would have likely never considered before: the classroom.

The students selected to become teachers through the scholarship have proven to be no slouches academically. In a 2011 profile of scholarship recipients, the average SAT score was an 1175, a substantial 167 points above the North Carolina average of 1008. Likewise, the average high school GPA of these inductees was a stellar 4.3.

These bright young minds are exactly what North Carolina needs to advance its standard of education among the general public.

In the modern job market, education is the single most important factor to employers. In purely monetary terms, if the estimated 46,675 students of the class of 2009 expected to drop out of N.C. high schools had instead decided to complete school, they would generate over $12 billion in additional lifetime income, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education.

The more data that is examined, the clearer the bottom line becomes: education is the key to a prosperous future for North Carolina.

The Teaching Fellows program is a crucial component of the effort to improve North Carolina’s schools, and efforts toward its elimination are not only shortsighted, but also downright counterproductive to sustained economic success within the state.

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