New report: Hard facts about NC teacher pay, who’s really underpaid and what we need to do

Teacher payBe sure to check out the latest installment in the NC Justice Center’s special “How to build an economy that works for all” series. Today’s special report is entitled “Attract–and keep–high quality teachers in the classroom with competitive pay.”

Among other things, the report explains why North Carolina teacher salaries are “extremely un-competitive” — especially for veteran teachers. Here’s an excerpt:

While American teacher salaries are, on average, inadequately competitive, North Carolina’s teacher salaries are even less so. According to research from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), North Carolina’s wage competitiveness is tied for 49th, with only Arizona offering less-competitive teacher salaries. Traditional teacher pay rankings placing North Carolina’s teacher salaries at 41st in the country under-sell the extent to which the state’s teacher salaries are inadequate.

Drawing upon a different U.S. Census data source comparing only full-time workers shows that North Carolina’s teacher salaries might be even less competitive than indicated by EPI. By this measure, North Carolina teachers’ wages are just 57 percent of the wages of other full-time workers in North Carolina with at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to a 64 percent ratio nationwide.

Using this data allows an examination of wage competitiveness by age group. The data runs somewhat contrary to the conventional wisdom that the biggest weakness of North Carolina’s teacher salary schedule is beginning teacher salaries. Instead, it appears that experienced teachers are the most under-paid.

While the age ranges are rather broad, these findings are consistent with EPI’s national analysis showing a smaller wage gap for young teachers, as compared to more experienced teachers.

Click here to read the whole report.



Fast-growing numbers show that Asian Americans will be a key swing vote in NC

The good people at North Carolina Asian Americans Together and a collection of good government groups have released a new report on the growing role that Asian Americans will play in the election here in North Carolina. Here’s the release that accompanied it:

New report highlights how Asian Americans, the fastest growing racial demographic in the political battleground of North Carolina, could hold the key to victory in 2016.

As the election season enters its final weeks, there’s a key demographic that candidates and parties in North Carolina should be paying attention to: Asian Americans. Asian Americans are the fastest?growing racial demographic in the country and in North Carolina. As a voting bloc that is largely independent, they are a key swing vote that could decide tight races in North Carolina in 2016, including contests for president, U.S. Senate and governor.

Those are among the highlights of a new report, “A Growing Voice: Asian American Voters in North Carolina,” released by a group of Asian American and civic organizations. The report finds the number of registered Asian American voters in North Carolina has grown 130 percent between 2006 and 2014, and that this voting bloc could provide the margin of victory in competitive statewide races and in some legislative districts.

“Asian Americans are a largely untapped voting base in North Carolina,” said Allie Yee, author of the report and associate director of the Institute for Southern Studies, a nonprofit research center in Durham, North Carolina. “As this community grows, it will play an increasingly important role in determining the future of our state and country.”

The report looks at several unique characteristics of Asian American voters in North Carolina:

Read more


Coal ash on the water and trees: “The area looks like a winter wonderland”


Coal ash that spilled from the Lee plant near Goldsboro (Photo: Waterkeeper Alliance)

This post has been updated with a comment from NC DEQ.

For the past week Matthew Starr, the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, has been surveilling the water near Duke Energy’s H.F. Lee facility, assessing flood damage from the hurricane. First, he noticed that the river waters, he told NCPW last week, “were chewing away at the [coal ash] dam.”

Now the riverkeepers and Waterkeeper Alliance — the same groups that both Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and Gov. Pat McCrory have called “environmental extremists” — have found a large coal ash spill from the Lee plant, 10 miles upstream of Goldsboro.

Fly ash coated tree branches as much as seven feet above the river surface, Starr wrote on the Waterkeeper Alliance website. Video shows an inch-thick layer of coal ash on the water.

This is how Duke Energy described the scene near the plant last Saturday, which downplays the amount of coal ash that had been spilled:

 Site inspections at the H.F. Lee Power Plant in Goldsboro, N.C., today confirm there was only very minor erosion of material from an inactive coal ash basin on the site. The majority of that material, which includes coal ash, remained very close to the inactive basin, on the berm or a few feet away on the basin roadway. The state team that inspected the facility determined that the amount of material that was displaced would not even fill the bed of an average pickup truck.

NC DEQ issued a statement today that resembles Duke Energy’s:

Environmental department staff determined on Monday that material found at the H.F. Lee facility in Wayne County is not coal ash as falsely reported by a special interest group. The material, called cenospheres are inert and non-toxic.

“It’s unfortunate that a political group masquerading as environmentalists is deliberately trying to mislead the public,” said Tom Reeder, assistant secretary of the environmental department. “This type of fear mongering is appalling in the wake of a storm that cost people their lives, their homes, and their businesses.”

During an unrelated site visit on Saturday, environmental staff inspected the erosion of an inactive coal ash basin and determined that a minimal amount of coal ash – described as less than would fit in a pickup truck – was released from the basin. 

Cenospheres are a byproduct of coal combustion. The microscopic particles are composed of iron, silica and alumina. However, they are not necessarily non-toxic. In July, The Center for Public Integrity interviewed an environmental toxicologist from Applachian State who said that cenospheres in ash from the Tennessee Valley Authority spill contained gel. That gel, the story said, “turned out to be iron oxide coated with arsenic at levels exceeding health thresholds for aquatic and human life.”

Inhaled, the cenospheres can damage the respiratory system not only from contamination but their sharp edges.

Meanwhile, the Southern Environmental Law Center reminded us of the coal ash dam hazard ratings at the remaining six plants. Unlike eight other sites that will be excavated, these will not. (The Yadkin Riverkeeper, represented by SELC, last week reached a settlement with Duke requiring the utility to excavate the material at Buck.)

Here are the dams and their hazard ratings:

High hazard

  • Allen Active Lagoon Coal Ash Dam (Lake Wylie)
  •  Belews Creek Coal Ash Dam (Walnut Cove)
  •  Cliffside Active Lagoon Coal Ash Dam (near Shelby)
  •  Cliffside Unit 5 Coal Ash Dam
  •  Cliffside Units 1-4 Coal Ash Dam (only this coal ash lagoon at Cliffside is being excavated)

Significant Hazard

  • Allen Retired Lagoon Coal Ash Dam (Lake Wylie)
  •  Marshall Coal Ash Dam (Lake Norman)
  •  Mayo coal ash dam (Person County)
  •  Roxboro West Coal Ash Dam (Person County)
  •  Roxboro East Coal Ash Dam  (Person County)




WATCH: McCrory, Cooper spar over abortion restrictions in final debate

Hurricane relief, the Carolina Comeback, HB2 and coal ash were just some of the topics the three men vying to be North Carolina’s governor covered in their final debate.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory found himself having to revisit a 2012 debate answer, in which he vowed that he would not enact any additional restrictions on abortion.

Tuesday night, McCrory tried to explain his decision to later approve a 72-hour waiting period on abortions. The governor said that decision ultimately prevented greater restrictions on women from the state House and Senate.

Democrat Roy Cooper suggested that McCrory reneged on his pledge to women and could not be trusted.

Watch the exchange below between Gov. McCrory, Attorney General Cooper, and Libertarian candidate Lon Cecil:

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NC Budget and Tax Center

For many low-income North Carolinians, Matthew’s damage is deeper than broken buildings

As the state begins recovery efforts following Hurricane Matthew, we begin to see unexpected damages. These damages are beyond the ruin of physical structures. These damages are not the effects of harsh winds and high waters. Instead, they are the years old damages – the damages of persistent poverty, underinvestment, and systemic neglect.

But what does poverty have to do with recovery from Matthew? While the hurricane itself did not distinguish between the rich and the poor, the ability of communities and families to recover will depend largely upon just that.

A recent N.C. Budget and Tax Center report (“North Carolina’s Greatest Challenge—Elevated Poverty Hampers Economic Opportunity for All”) finds that 1.6 million North Carolinians live in poverty – that’s a poverty rate 15 percent higher than before the Great Recession. North Carolina has the 12th highest poverty rate, child poverty rate, and deep poverty rate in the nation, and people of color, women and children are more likely to be in poverty than their white, male counterparts. Additionally, the report found that in North Carolina in 2014, the 20 counties with the highest rates of poverty were all rural. North Carolina had a serious issue with poverty even before Matthew hit.

In “Poor, Displaced and Anxious in North Carolina as Floods Climb After Hurricane,” New York Times reporter Jess Bidgood highlights the disproportionate impact the hurricane had on our poorest communities. The story notes that families with vehicles, or who could afford moving trucks, were able to evacuate their families and valuables. Additionally, workers with paid time off or savings are able to absorb the financial burden that comes with evacuation and recovery. Families in poverty and without savings or paid leave policies were more likely to lose valuables and essentials and have fewer means to replace them. Families living paycheck to paycheck can barely afford a day off, let alone weeks out of work. Even FEMA admits it will only be able to provide very modest short term support for even the neediest families.

This is from the story:

“But even when state and federal officials work to disburse flood aid, experts said, it is often harder for families living on the margins to bounce back. The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina estimated that 356,000 people in the 21 counties it was monitoring for storm and flood effects did not have access to enough healthy food, even before the floods.”

In “Flooding from hurricane hits lower-income North Carolina residents hard,” Washington Post reporters Chico Harlan and Angela Fritz drew attention to some of the pre-existing inequalities that will impact recovery. Read more