Commentary

Editorial: GOP lawmakers should stop berating and start listening to our teachers

In case you missed it. there was a fine editorial this week in both the Greensboro News & Record and the Winston-Salem Journal in response to Wednesday’s massive teacher rally. The message: Republican legislative leaders need to stop their excuse making and name calling and start listening to the message the 20,000-plus teachers delivered. Here are some excerpts:

“The teachers’ demands are simple: more money for them and their classrooms and more respect for a profession blamed for a range of ills.

The facts are these: The average pay for teachers in North Carolina is $51,214. That ranks 39th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia. That average has gained eight spots since 2013, and public school teachers are paid better than a lot of North Carolinians.

But the typical N.C. teacher is paid nearly $10,000 less than the national average. Among professions that require a four-year degree, teaching is one of the lowest-paid careers that a college graduate can pick. Because the cost of living has gone up much faster than teachers’ salaries, the typical N.C. teacher has about $5,000 less in purchasing power than a decade ago, before the Great Recession. The recent salary increases have made up some ground, but there is still a long way to go.

There’s more. In recent years, Republican lawmakers took away longevity bonuses paid to veteran teachers and stopped offering higher salaries to teachers with advanced degrees. The legislature also did away with multiyear teaching contracts for newly hired teachers. Teachers want these perks restored.

There’s still more. Teachers want state lawmakers to repair crumbling schools, buy more supplies and hire more nurses, counselors and social workers to help take care of North Carolina’s children. As an elementary teacher from Raleigh told The Associated Press: ‘We’re here to tell our legislators and our representatives that we need more funds to keep our buildings in good shape, to get more textbooks, more resources for our students, to just have a better environment for public education.’”

The answer, according to the editorial begins with Republicans not pretending like the problem has been solved.

“Republican leaders in Raleigh are trying to hold back this sea of red. They point out that they will raise teachers’ pay this year for the fifth consecutive year. (Their proposed 6.2 percent raise would move the average to $53,600.) At a news conference Tuesday, GOP leaders said they’re thinking about awarding bonuses to top teachers or those who teach high-demand subjects.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has a better plan. The budget proposal that he unveiled last week would increase salaries by 8 percent this year and take a big first step toward the national average. (Republicans say it will cost too much to get N.C. teachers to the national average.) Cooper would pay for these increases by holding off on a planned tax cut for businesses and for people making more than $200,000 a year.

Even as GOP leaders were praising themselves for supporting teachers, they couldn’t resist talking out of turn. One Republican lawmaker said before Wednesday’s event that “union thugs” were behind the rally. On the eve of the rally Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said he was disappointed that “a million kids are not going to be in school (Wednesday) because a political organization wants to have folks come here to communicate with us or send a message or whatever.

The good news is that the state’s two parties are talking about teachers’ pay. But renewed respect — or ‘whatever’ — for teachers might take a lot longer.”

See below for more hard numbers on the reality of teacher pay in North Carolina:

Read more

Commentary

NC Policy Watch Policy Prescription #4: Promoting racial equity in education

During this week and next, as state lawmakers return to Raleigh for the 2018 legislative session, we hope you will continue reading our special series “Policy Prescriptions” researched and written by A. J. Fletcher Foundation Fellow Samone Oates-Bullock. Prescription #1 addressed food insecurity in North Carolina. Prescription #2 took on the issue of early childhood investments. Prescription #3 analyzed the challenge of funding school adequately and fairly.

This is from today’s installment, “Breaking down barriers: promoting racial equity in education”:

“Despite progress on some fronts, questions of race and racism remain front and center in the debate over education in North Carolina. Nearly two decades into the 21st Century, inequity and lack of access continue to serve as debilitating roadblocks to many students of color. Compared to white students, students of color are more likely to attend schools that are underfunded and overcrowded, that have fewer up-to-date materials, less technology and a lower percentage of highly qualified teachers. And while racial equity is often a topic that goes unaddressed due to fear of controversy, it must be at the forefront of the conversation if our state hopes to create meaningful progress in this vitally important arena….”

Read the full report here.

Commentary, Defending Democracy

Come on, Senator Tillis, do the right thing on this one

The Right’s ongoing judicial coup d’é·tat will sink to a remarkable low today when the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee — including, by all indications, one of its most loyal champions of reaction, Senator Thom Tillis — is expected to advance three extreme Trump nominees to serve lifetime appointments as federal judges. And while that may sound like just a normal day in Washington during these dark times, there is another aspect to the story that makes it even more outrageous and maddening: the votes will take place on the anniversary of the historic Supreme Court school desegregation ruling in the case of Brown v. Board of Education and — get this — the would-be judges in question refuse to endorse the landmark decision.

This is from a post yesterday from national civil rights leader Vanita Gupta:

“In response to a straightforward question from Sen. Richard Blumenthal last month, Louisiana district court nominee Wendy Vitter refused to say whether the Supreme Court correctly decided Brown v. Board of Education. It was a stunning moment caught on video.

Given that millions of people watched this video, one would imagine the coaching sessions for Trump’s nominees would have prepared them for the question to be asked again, but just two weeks later, Trump’s Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals nominee, Andrew Oldham, joined four White male district court nominees, including Eastern District of Texas nominee Michael Truncale, in also refusing to say whether Brown v. Board was correctly decided.

It wasn’t a trick question. Current Supreme Court justices—including Justices Thomas and Gorsuch—supported Brown at their nominations hearings.

Considering that the Senate Judiciary Committee stands poised to vote on their nominations this Thursday—64 years following the groundbreaking and unanimous Brown decision—their refusal to agree with this landmark ruling should serve as a wake-up call for what President Trump is trying to do to our independent courts.”

Gupta concludes this way:

“Beyond their disqualifying refusal to answer this question, these nominees have records that are deeply concerning to the civil and human rights community. In addition to a history of hostility to immigrant rights, Vitter has embraced fringe and discredited views about contraception?—?views that she failed to disclose to the Senate. Thirty-nine-year-old Oldham has worked to restrict voting rights, immigrant rights and women’s health—as well as seeking to undermine environmental protection and gun safety. He has even questioned the very existence of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Michael Truncale has echoed Trump’s fear-mongering about the Mexican border and has called for the abolition of the U.S. Department of Education.

By voting to advance Vitter, Oldham, and Truncale to the Senate floor on Thursday, senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee will be affirming that these nominees’ extreme views are now acceptable, that people in America do not deserve fair-minded jurists on the federal bench, and that Brown v. Board of Education was not correctly decided. All committee members must stand on the side of justice and protect our federal courts by voting to reject these three extreme judicial nominees.”

Come on Senator Tillis, do the right thing.

Commentary

NC Policy Watch Policy Prescription #3: Funding schools fairly and adequately

During this week and next, as state lawmakers return to Raleigh for the 2018 legislative session, we hope you will continue reading our special series “Policy Prescriptions” researched and written by A. J. Fletcher Foundation Fellow Samone Oates-Bullock. Prescription #1 addressed food insecurity in North Carolina. Prescription #2 took on the issue of early childhood investments.

This is from today’s installment, “Show us the money: Funding schools fairly and adequately.”

“While money alone is not enough to solve the issues of adequacy and equity in education, it still plays a critical role in moving the needle. Today, there remain huge gaps in public school funding between North Carolina’s wealthiest and most vulnerable counties. As a result, children attending schools in wealthier counties often have access to better facilities and instructional materials, more experienced teachers, and a variety of other critical resources. Addressing funding disparities would be another big step in improving educational outcomes for all of North Carolina’s students….”

Read the full piece here.

Commentary

Fuzzy math exposed: Experts debunk GOP teacher pay “facts” (infographic)

At a press conference yesterday, Republican state lawmakers used the visual below in an effort to defend their education funding decisions of recent years. It was almost enough to make a skeptic think that maybe things aren’t so bad for the state’s teachers. But only almost. As the “real facts” visual right below from the experts the NC Justice Center demonstrates, the GOP “facts” come up a little short on being right.