Commentary

The conservative war on NC public school teachers neatly summarized

In case you missed it over the weekend, the good people at the Public School Forum of North Carolina produced an excellent response to the cheapskate teacher pay plan that the General Assembly produced and Gov. Cooper rightfully vetoed.

This is from the statement:

Today, Governor Roy Cooper vetoed a ‘mini-budget’ bill passed by the General Assembly in October that would have offered teachers across the state pay raises that are grossly inadequate and do not reflect the tireless commitment North Carolina’s educators make to our children every day. Governor Cooper vetoed the raises at a time when teachers face nearly a decade of actions taken by state lawmakers to dramatically reduce the resources and tools they need to be successful in the classroom.

“The ‘mini-budget’ that was crafted by lawmakers does not value the incredible contributions our teachers make every day in schools across our great state,” said Dr. Michael Priddy, Interim Executive Director, Public School Forum of NC. “We can and must do more to value our teachers who sacrifice so much of their time and resources to educate our youth.”

The General Assembly approved average teacher raises of 3.9% over two years, and 2% raises for non-instructional staff. But additional language in the bill would have given educators a larger raise and a bonus — a clear indicator that we as a state have the resources to invest in our educators — but only if Democrats elected to override Governor Cooper’s veto of the state budget that was passed over the summer.

“Playing politics with teachers’ livelihoods is wrong,” said Priddy. “Given that our state has the resources necessary to invest in our teaching workforce and, by extension, our children, we trust that the Governor’s veto will lead to further negotiations and a proper resolution on teacher raises.”

The Public School Forum believes that it is critical that we as a state have an honest and accurate conversation about teacher pay and what increases in state spending for teacher salaries are necessary to begin to address the massive teacher shortages and inequities in salaries across North Carolina.

Over the past decade, North Carolina has witnessed a steady deprofessionalization of the teaching profession. While teachers have seen some pay increases since the Great Recession, these salary bumps obscure the fact that in many cases they have come at the expense of numerous classroom needs and teacher supports that are essential to student success, leaving our teachers to consider second jobs and/or different careers, and deterring our best and brightest from considering the profession altogether. The list below includes some of what teachers—and, by extension, students—have lost.

  • Loss of 8,000 teacher assistants in elementary classrooms;
  • Insufficient instructional resources and textbooks;
  • Insufficient mental health support personnel;
  • The elimination of longevity pay and master’s pay;
  • The elimination of career status (tenure), which offered teachers due process;
  • The elimination of state funds for professional development; and
  • The elimination of retiree health insurance benefits for teachers hired in 2021 and beyond;

As we stated in our teacher pay report released earlier this year, teaching is one of the most difficult, and undoubtedly the most important professions there is—and for the future of our state and all public schools, North Carolina teachers deserve better.

News

UNC System releases documents detailing Gerlach investigation

The UNC System has released hundreds of pages of documents related to the investigation of  ECU Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach. Gerlach’s resignation last month has led to controversy over what appears to be another power struggle between members of the UNC Board of Governors, state lawmakers and leaders of the system itself.

Last week it was revealed that UNC Board of Governors member Tom Fetzer and attorney Peter Romary ran their own investigation into a night of drinking with ECU students that led to Gerlach’s suspension and eventual resignation. According to e-mails and text messages obtained by NC Policy Watch, Fetzer and Romary actively tried to hide their investigation from the UNC system and the law firm hired to do the official investigation. The video and information they secured were leaked to the media, along with allegations against Gerlach for which there appears to be no evidence.

During their independent investigation Fetzer and Romary suggested they were working with or on behalf of members of the UNC Board of Governors, ECU Board of Trustees and state lawmakers, dropping the names or titles of Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), House Speaker Tim Moore (R- Cleveland) and House Majority Leader John Bell (R-Wayne).

Among the hundreds of pages — some redacted — released by the UNC system:

* A memo from international law firm Womble Bond Dickinson on their communications with Fetzer and attempts to secure City of Greenville video footage that appears to show Gerlach weaving and stumbling on foot after a night of drinking before getting into his car and driving away.

* A 23-page report from Womble Bond Dickinson on their findings in the Gerlach investigation.

* A five-page timeline of communications between Peter Romary and the City of Greenville as he attempted to obtain the video footage of Gerlach

* Nearly 300 pages of e-mails and communications related to the Romary timeline.

In its findings, Womble Bond Dickinson reported:

* Gerlach claimed not to be intoxicated when he drove home but also could not correctly remember the evening’s sequence of events and some important details. Some witnesses claimed that he had slurred speech and trouble walking straight.

* Gerlach did buy alcoholic drinks for students and says he has done so before, but only when it was confirmed that they were of legal drinking age.

* Despite claims in anonymously-sent e-mails, Gerlach does not appear to have engaged in any public sexual activity and does not appear to have been with a prostitute, as was anonymously alleged.

* The woman alleged to be a prostitute with whom Gerlach was rumored to have had a sexual liaison was, according to witnesses, a drunk and belligerent person unfamiliar to Gerlach who acted in an aggressive way toward him and from whom he tried to extricate himself. She was eventually ejected from the bar.

* Written and verbal statements by Romary appear very similar to those in the anonymous e-mails and were similarly expressed. During his interview with investigators, Romary is said to have tried to make the case that Gerlach did have a public sexual liaison on the night in question.

* Fetzer, Romary and ECU Board of Trustees members Phil Lewis and Robert Moore acted independent of the official investigation. They did not allow their phones to be examined as part of the investigation. At several points they, along with former UNC Board of Governors member Harry Smith, called into question the methods and legitimacy of the investigation. While arguing with investigators Romary suggested he would contact U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, whose family he also referenced while trying to secure materials during his independent investigation.

* While Womble Bond Dickinson could not conclude that Gerlach was “set-up” by those wishing to tape him being publicly intoxicated and having interactions with a woman later alleged to be a prostitute. They could not “entirely rule out” that possibility, but neither could they confirm it.

Policy Watch will report more on this story as it develops.

Commentary

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Giuliani and the butt-dial

Just when I was beginning to wonder if Rudy Giulianiwho has perfected the crazy eye of latewas even human what with his wackadoodle comments, wild gesticulating and testy “You and whose army?” vibe, he up and commits that most human of errors: He buttdials.

In a way, it’s the only endearing thing Rudy has done in a very long time. We’ve all given and receiveth the butt dial, so we know how he feels.

?The term “butt dial” appears to have originated back in 2008, when someone—we will never know who and it’s a damn shame—came up with a direct, if mildly profane description of what happens when your cell phone FORSAKES you and randomly calls someone without you knowing.

Often, but not always, this is the result of sitting on your phone, hence “butt dial.”

?Most of the time, as in Giuliani’s case, your naughty phone tends to call the absolute LAST PERSON ON EARTH you’d want it to. Like, say, an NBC reporter who was treated recently to three minutes of buttdialing in which Giuliani can be heard droning on to a mysterious person in the background about fraud, someone named Charles, the kingdom of Bahrain and the need for “a few hundred thousand dollars.”

?As is the case with most buttdialers, this was a repeat offense: Giuliani previously committed butt-dialery with the same reporter a month earlier. Serial butt-dialing is a thing. I have a sisterinlaw who, bless her heart, has buttdialed me more than 20 times over the years.

?Sadly, when she does this, I’m never treated to interesting tea being spilled a la the fevered rants of Giuliani, but rather drive-time NPR punctuated by what sounds like a rabid raccoon rummaging in her purse. So scrunchy. So loud.

Sometimes, you think it’s a buttdial but what if it’s not? How do you check to make sure? I often try screaming my sister-in-law’s name in hopes she will hear me, realize her error and either hang up discreetly or pick up and say “Sorry ‘bout that.” No big deal but I just think she should know that I’m pretty sure there’s an unvaccinated wildebeest trapped in her purse and she might want to do something about that at the next exit if not sooner.

Rudy Giuliani, who has dropped behind Mayor McCheese in the hizzoner rankings lately on account of consorting with undesirables (yes, worse than Hamburglar), isn’t what you’d call tech-savvy so he’s a serial butt-dialer. He’s going to keep doing it and the reporters are going to keep listening.

If you ask me, Rudy’s phone is a Democrat. Why else would it butt-dial national news reporters instead of one of Rudy’s many mob-connected cronies or a cousin-wife?

I’m guessing Trump, as Rudy’s most famousclient will go all High School Musical chorus teacher on him and demand that Rudy place his cell phone in a cute wicker basket before he enters the Oval Office.

Can’t take any chances.

Celia Rivenbark is a New York Times -bestselling author and columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.

Commentary, Environment, News

The week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. North Carolina’s full-time part-time legislature


The North Carolina General Assembly adjourned its 2019 legislative session last week.

Sort of.

Lawmakers did head home, but unlike in years gone by when the end of the so-called legislative “long session” inaugurated a break that typically stretched to the following spring, the honorables have already announced that they will return next Wednesday, November 13, with a plan to take up redistricting legislation and, essentially, anything else that captures their fancy.

At the conclusion of that indeterminate gathering, they plan to return yet again in January for another session devoted to whatever matters suit the political needs of Senate and House Republican leaders.[Read more…]

Bonus read: Governor vetoes four bills, calls on legislators to stop shortchanging educators on pay

2. North Carolina lawmakers begin drawing new election maps…again


North Carolina lawmakers are drawing electoral maps for the second time this year – this time, they are tackling congressional districts.

A court ruled last week that the plaintiffs in a partisan gerrymandering lawsuit challenging the 2016 congressional map are likely to prevail on the merits of their case and enjoined lawmakers from moving forward with those districts in the 2020 election.

Lawmakers already redrew legislative districts because the court ruled in Common Cause v. Lewis that Republicans had an unconstitutionally unfair advantage that diluted Democratic votes. Appellate litigation is still pending in that case. [Read more…]

3. PW exclusive: Proposal for massive Caswell County granite mine fires up locals

Mine would cover 426 acres to depths as great as 550 feet, impact groundwater and, possibly, nearby drinking water sources

On the morning of Halloween, Randy Hester shifted the gears of his rugged pickup truck into four-wheel drive and headed down a knobby hill toward Roxboro Lake. Hester’s 200-acre farm, which abuts the shoreline, has been in his family for 10 generations, and he knows every fold and pleat in the landscape.

He stopped the truck, scaled a gate, traipsed through loose understory, and tiptoed across the muddy roof of a beaver lodge to the edge of the lake. Tornadoes were in the forecast. Already 80 degrees, the air near the ground felt as hot and thick as fondue. [Read more…]

4. Lawyer who obtained security video of ECU interim chancellor claimed to be working for legislative leaders


Peter Romary worked for UNC board member Tom Fetzer, but claimed connections to Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore

A Greenville lawyer claimed he was working with members of the UNC Board of Governors and leaders of the North Carolina legislature when trying to obtain video that led to the resignation of former Interim ECU Chancellor Dan Gerlach.

Emails and text messages released this week show attorney Peter Romary and UNC Board of Governors member Tom Fetzer applying pressure and referencing powerful state lawmakers in an independent investigation of the ECU chancellor. They kept this work hidden from the full board of governors, UNC System President Bill Roper and the international law firm the system had hired to officially investigate the matter.[Read more…]

Bonus read: UNC System releases documents detailing Gerlach investigation

5. State Board of Ed receives hopeful report of progress in slowing NC’s school-to-prison pipeline

GREENSBORO – A Pender County graduate almost missed an opportunity to pursue his dream job because he got into a fight while in high school at age 15.

New Hanover County Chief District Court Judge J.H. Corpening told the State Board of Education (SBE) on Wednesday that the young man dreamed of joining the U.S. Air Force to pursue a career in military intelligence.

But when he self-reported to a recruiter that he was charged in the school incident and sent to Teen Court, where the case was dismissed, Corpening said the recruiter told the young man he no longer qualified for the selective intelligence Military Occupational Specialty, commonly referred to as an “MOS.” [Read more…]

6. Weekly Radio Interviews and Micro-podcasts:


Click here to listen to this week’s newsmaker interviews and commentaries with Policy Watch’s Rob Schofield.

7. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

Education

Teachers stand with Gov. Cooper despite veto risking pay raises for 2019

By Greg Childress

North Carolina teachers march in downtown Raleigh for better pay and more education funding in May.

It’s looks like North Carolina educators won’t get a pay raise in 2019.

Nevertheless, teachers appear to be standing with Gov. Roy Cooper in opposition to a Republican-led General Assembly’s plan to increase teacher pay by 3.9%.

On Friday, Cooper vetoed the proposed 3.9% pay increase approved by lawmakers for teachers along with a 2% increase for non-instructional staff, arguing the increases simply aren’t enough.

The Democrat favors a compromise that would mean 8.5% raise for teachers over two years. The current Republican proposal would amount to a 2.0% raise in 2019-20 and 1.8% in 2020-2021.

The N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE) issued this statement:

“North Carolina educators rejected the Republican budget as anemic and insulting in June, and we reject essentially the same today,” said NCAE President Mark Jewell. “We stand behind Governor Cooper’s veto of this bill and demand the leaders in the General Assembly stop wasting time on failed veto overrides and unpopular corporate tax cuts and start spending time doing the hard work of governing. Educators, students, and families have been waiting and watching since January, and it is past time for Republican leadership to work in good faith towards the public education priorities they purport to embrace.”

Cooper’s veto of the GOP’s pay plan for educators followed a week of teacher protest across North Carolina over better pay and increased funding for education.

Protests took place in Durham, High Point and other locations around the state.

Teachers also shared their opinions about the governor’s veto on social media.

“The NCGA will not divide us from our students and families by trying to buy us off with minuscule teacher pay raises in exchange for Medicaid expansion, student support staff, raises for classified staff, and everything else our communities need,” Anna Grant, a Community School Coordinator in Durham wrote on her Facebook page.

Cooper’s veto was quickly criticized by Republican leaders.

“Teachers are told to be good, loyal Democrats and their union and their Governor will take care of them. But they need to ask themselves: ‘What has Roy Cooper ever done for me?’ He’s vetoed every single teacher pay raise that’s come across his desk, and he chose today to give teachers nothing for the next two years,” said Senate leader Phil Berger.

And House Speaker Tim Moore offered this: “Instead of having more money over the holidays, teachers will continue to wait for Gov. Cooper to put their needs ahead of other issues.”

Rhonda Dillingham, executive director of the N.C. Association for Public Charter Schools, said Nov. 8 will be remembered as the “true Black Friday in North Carolina.”

“With his veto of SB354, the “Strengthening Educator Pay Act,” the Governor [Cooper] has dashed the hopes of our state’s teachers, making their ability to care for their families more difficult,” Dillingham said in a statement. “Instead of looking forward to the holidays with excitement, our state’s teachers will once again be forced to tighten their belts. North Carolina’s teachers deserve better! North Carolina’s charter schools stand with our teachers!”

At a morning press conference surrounded by teachers wearing red (Red for Ed), Cooper asked Republicans to meet with him to negotiate teacher pay raises.

Cooper said the negotiations wouldn’t be linked to Medicaid expansion, which he sought but did not receive in the budget submitted by lawmakers.

“I will negotiate these educator raises separate and apart from Medicaid expansion and other budget issues,” Cooper said. “There is no Medicaid ultimatum and Republican leaders have clearly used this false premise to shortchange teachers,” Cooper said.