On May 1, thousands of educators and public education advocates flooded the streets of Raleigh to demand additional resources for North Carolina’s public schools. Organizers from the North Carolina Association of Educators outlined five policy priorities:
- Provide enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national standards.
- Provide $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, 5% raise for all public school personnel, and a 5% cost of living adjustment for retirees.
- Expand Medicaid to improve the health of our students and families.
- Reinstate state retiree health benefits eliminated by the General Assembly in 2017.
- Restore advanced degree compensation stripped by the General Assembly in 2013.
Now that the House and Senate budget proposals have been released, it’s clear that General Assembly leaders failed to listen.
As can be seen, the General Assembly proposals fail to reach consensus on any of the policy priorities of the May 1 participants:
- School support staff: Both proposals make just incremental progress towards filling North Carolina’s shortfall of librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals.
- Educator compensation: Neither proposal includes extending the $15 minimum wage for state employees to the lowest-paid public school employees. Nor does either proposal provide a 5 percent pay increase in year one for educators. And neither budget includes a permanent COLA for retirees.
- Medicaid expansion: Neither the House nor the Senate proposals include Medicaid expansion, leaving 500,000 North Carolinians in the coverage gap, harming stability and coverage for countless families.
- Restore retiree health benefits for new hires: Neither proposal restores retiree health benefits for new hires after January 1, 2021, which will hamper teacher recruitment after that time.
- Restore master’s supplement for those who started programs after August 1, 2013: The House budget includes restoration of the master’s salary supplement, returning to the policy in place prior to the 2013 repeal. The Senate proposal would not restore the master’s salary supplement.
These budget proposals are a slap in the face those who came out on May 1, filling the streets of Raleigh to demand more adequate support for our schools. Clearly, legislative leaders weren’t happy with teachers’ decision to organize massive rallies in each of the past two years. But unless the General Assembly reverses course and starts listening to the state’s educators, teacher actions are likely to become more frequent and more disruptive in future years. Teachers are clearly fed up with not being provided the resources necessary to help their children succeed. This year’s budget proposals are only going to stoke that fire.