Over the last week, the News & Observer and EdNC published articles about a modification to the principal compensation system included in this year’s state budget. Now, school administrators fear that the change will deprive them of a performance bonus they would have earned under a previous standard. And the bonuses can be substantial: up to $20,000 for some school administrators.

Since 2017, principals qualified for a bonus if their schools met or exceeded projected growth on state standardized tests in two of the previous three school years. This year, lawmakers modified the bonus conditions to base the bonus determination on test scores from the 2021-22 school year only. In part, the cancellation of state testing in 2020 prompted budget writers to revise the model. Gov. Cooper signed the bipartisan budget bill last month.

We will not be able to assess the effects of the change until the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction releases test scores for the 2021-22 school year, which usually occurs in September or October. Staff for North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger contends that more principals will qualify for a bonus under the new system than in the previous one. School administrators argue that they will be penalized for a school year that occurred during what the 2022 North Carolina Principal of the Year Patrick Greene called “the most challenging period of our careers.”

What made it so challenging? Unnecessary lockdowns championed by the North Carolina Association of Educators and imposed by the Cooper administration? Catastrophic learning loss produced by mandatory online learning? Masking policies and other so-called mitigation measures that lacked scientific validity and common sense? The answer is “all of the above.”

Indeed, ongoing “challenges” confronted by public school personnel did not appear out of thin air. The Cooper administration imposed a top-down pandemic response that will harm children, parents, public school employees, and their communities for years to come.