Let’s hope Gov. Pat McCrory’s latest statements on teacher pay (namely that he wants a “long-term strategy” that will lead to pay hikes for all teachers in both K-12 and higher education) reflect an attitude and policy shift for the administration rather than just another example of the governor talking out of both sides of his mouth and telling an audience what it wants to hear in measured and backtrackable terms.
It’s got to be one or the other, however, because it certainly isn’t what McCrory and his allies have been fighting for over the last several years. Indeed, it’s one of the biggest and most under-reported scandals of present-day North Carolina politics that the governor and conservative legislative leaders have repeatedly been allowed by a distracted news media to lament the fact that teacher salaries have been essentially frozen for years.
Earth to Governor McCrory, Speaker Tillis and Senate President Berger: The reason salaries have been mired in the muck for so long is not a lack of will on the part of your political adversaries; it’s because you and your allies so tenaciously fought every single attempt to find the necessary public revenue to raise them! Good lord, it was just a few years ago at the height of the Great Recession that then-Governor Perdue and Democratic leaders in the General Assembly were being forced to take extraordinary steps just to raise enough tax dollars so as not to have to slash teacher and state employee salaries. And they had to do it over the almost apoplectic objections of the McCrory-Pope-Tillis-Berger crowd! Heck, over in the Pope-funded think tanks, it’s been almost an article of faith for years that North Carolina teacher salaries were, if anything, overly-generous.
So, Governor, if you’re really serious about developing a “long-term strategy” to raise educator pay, welcome to the team as we’re glad to have you! Moreover, you’ll be happy to learn that such a strategy already exists; it’s called raising the tax revenue necessary to get the job done.
And in an even happier circumstance, there’s no need to jack up taxes to unprecedented levels. Much of what needs to be done can be accomplished by simply returning the state to the more fiscally sane path of the 1980’s and 90’s in which state and local tax revenue more closely matched the size of the state’s economy and total personal income. A great start in this direction would be to repeal last session’s ridiculous tax giveaways to the wealthy and profitable corporations.
The bottom line: The Governor is right about the need for a “long-term strategy” on teacher pay. Let’s hope he means it. But in order for such a statement to be truly meaningful and not just feel-good chatter, it’s going to take a bold and courageous change of political course by the Governor in which he repudiates his hard right allies. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that.