May 4-8th is National Teacher Appreciation Week. Meanwhile, at this week’s State Board of Education meeting, Dr. Atkinson exploited the Teacher of the Year program for her own political agenda.

For 44 years North Carolina has participated in the national “Teacher of the Year” program. The process begins by each school nominating a teacher. The school’s winning teacher competes within their system. Each system selects a teacher to compete within their region. North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year is chosen from the 9 regional winners, and continues on to the National Teacher of the Year competition.

The regional winners receive various honors including a one-time stipend of $5000, with the state’s winner receiving a stipend of $7,500.

On May 6th, Dr. Atkinson suggested the State Board of Education CUT each of these stipends by $2,500, for a total of $22,500.

Asked why? She needs to “balance” the “expected” DPI cuts. I should have known! The Republican controlled General Assembly is “forcing” her to make these changes on the backs of teachers!

The Board asked a variety of questions, and decided to table the agenda item. You would think that out of $8.1 billion, someone could find $22,500 somewhere other than teachers.  However, Dr. Atkinson knew exactly what she was doing with this proposed policy change. Pick an emotionally charged budget item that affects the most vulnerable, act like no other options exist, then blame it on folks who are not even in the room. Also, make sure the timing is just right, as budgets are being developed.

After the Board posed questions regarding other funding sources, Atkinson asked the Board for help in finding funds to possibly keep the current stipends. Since she is an advocate for teachers, maybe someone should ask her to donate $22,500 out of her annual salary of $124,676.  It could be tax-deducatable! She has worked nearly 30 years at the Department, and 10 years in her current position. A gesture of such would surely show her appreciation of teachers this week.