Governor’s budget press conference short on details when it comes to teacher pay

26514179491_2290925c45_zWe’re still largely short on details when it comes to Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed $22.8 billion budget plan. But when it comes to teacher pay, those who were critical of the governor’s overtures for a raise plan that again targets beginning teachers rather than the state’s veteran educators are likely to find more fuel after today.

In this video posted over at The News & Observer, you’ll get some explanation from McCrory’s budget chief Andrew Heath on the governor’s proposed plan. The full budget proposal should be released sometime next week, although most observers expect significant changes from the legislature, which reconvenes Monday.

As we reported earlier this month, the governor’s plan will focus on raises for beginning teachers that will bring the state’s average teacher pay up to about $50,000. Veteran teachers, it seems, can expect a $5,000, one-time bonus.

“Every teacher will get at least a bonus of 3 percent,” Heath said during Friday’s budget press conference. “For the younger teachers we’re getting them bigger pay increases and they’re getting the bonus on top of that. With the veteran teachers, we want to recognize their service by giving them a higher percentage of the one-time bonus, and that will be about $5,000.”

Of course, that explanation isn’t likely to soothe some critics like Christine Fitch, the N.C. State Board of Education’s local school board advisor, who lambasted the governor’s pay plan for veteran teachers earlier this month.

“Let’s not call this a raise,” said Fitch. “Call it what it is: a bonus. Tell them that you’re giving them a one-time bonus.”

More details on the governor’s budget as it becomes available.


Physician from NC Senate leader’s district makes impassioned plea for Medicaid expansion

deny-medicaid-400x270In case you missed it, a veteran family physician from Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s home county of Rockingham has authored one of the best new pleas for closing North Carolina’s Medicaid gap that currently keeps hundreds of thousands of working North Carolinians uninsured. In an open letter to Berger and Gov. Pat McCrory in the Greensboro News & Record, Dr. Stephen Luking offers several heartrending examples from his own practice about good, honest people whose health and life expectancy have been directly endangered as a result of the state’s stubborn resistance to Medicaid expansion. As he notes:

“These families aren’t ‘takers’ looking for a handout. The working poor are our cousins and our neighbors. They sit with us in the pews on Sunday; their children or grandchildren go to school with ours.

Some have watched well-paying jobs fly to Mexico or China. Some through personal or family circumstance earn meager wages. Some have employers who craftily maintain them under “temp” status or keep their hours worked under 30 hours per week to avoid insurance obligations. Some have reached their God-given potential.

Who are we to pass judgment? The fact is that near-poverty has left all of them uninsurable without Medicaid. Your rejection of Medicaid expansion may have earned you bona fides and high-fives in political circles, but in the real world your decision has harmed these families left and right.”

And here’s the powerful conclusion:

“Like any family doctor who has practiced for 30 years, I know what it’s like to make a decision that leads to the death of a patient. The appropriate intervention gone badly, the symptom after consideration mistakenly reassured. … I can tell you, it cuts like a knife. You face the family and fight back the tears. You wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and wish you had that moment back.

And sometimes one night leads to a dozen. My wife will tell you, it’s a load to carry.

Gov. McCrory and Sen. Berger, you now carry that same weight, whether you will admit it or not. Welcome to this our unfortunate fraternity: those who carry the blood of others on our hands. Like it or not, we are all three members.

Some in Rockingham County will surely die — if some haven’t already — because of your partisan decision to reject Medicaid expansion.

Please embrace our shared humanity. The two of you have the power to get this done.

Re-approach this issue with an open mind and you will experience a change of heart.

Until then, I hope you’ll wake up some nights in a cold sweat, knowing you have committed a terrible wrong. Shame on you for your complicity thus far in denying basic health insurance to the most vulnerable residents of our state.

Shame on the rest of us for letting you get away with it.”



Following court victory, ACLU reaffirms warning that House Bill 2 could threaten billions in federal education dollars

HB2As we reported earlier today on this blog, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a major ruling today in favor of Gavin Grimm, a transgender teenager from Virginia who challenged his school system’s policy banning transgender students from using the bathroom that correlates with their gender identity.

As we noted at Policy Watch, this case could have major implications for House Bill 2, as it might eventually settle the question of whether the legislation imperils the state’s share of federal Title IX funding, more than $4 billion, for public schools. 

Today’s ruling overturns a previous district court decision made against Grimm last year. That district court decision was a key component of Gov. Pat McCrory’s defense of the bill. Read Policy Watch’s exclusive interview with Grimm’s lawyer, Joshua Block, here. 

It’s likely that the appeals court decision will be challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but, in the meantime, the ACLU of N.C., which filed a legal challenge to House Bill 2 in North Carolina, and Lambda Legal have responded by reaffirming their statement that the controversial bill clashes with federal directives from President Obama’s administration.

From the ACLU and Lambda Legal’s statement:

The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit marks the first time that a federal appeals court has determined that Title IX protects the rights of transgender students to use sex segregated facilities that are consistent with their gender identity, and therefore could have major implications for North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which forces transgender individuals to use the wrong restroom in schools and other government buildings. North Carolina is in the Fourth Circuit.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina, and Lambda Legal released the following statement:

“Today’s ruling makes plain that North Carolina’s House Bill 2 violates Title IX by discriminating against transgender students and forcing them to use the wrong restroom at school. This mean-spirited law not only encourages discrimination and endangers transgender students – it puts at risk billions of dollars in federal funds that North Carolina receives for secondary and post-secondary schools. House Bill 2 exposes North Carolinians to discrimination and harm, is wreaking havoc on the state’s economy and reputation, and now more than ever, places the state’s federal education funding in jeopardy. We again call on Governor McCrory and the General Assembly to repeal House Bill 2 and replace it with full nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.”

Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the ACLU of North Carolina recently filed a lawsuit challenging House Bill 2. The lawsuit argues that through HB 2, North Carolina sends a purposeful message that LGBT people are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the privacy, respect, and protections afforded others in the state. The complaint argues that HB 2 is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment by discriminating on the basis of sex and sexual orientation and invading the privacy of transgender people. The law also violates Title IX by discriminating against students and school employees on the basis of sex.

We’ll continue to follow this important case as it develops.



Editorials pan McCrory’s disingenuous performance on Meet the Press

Gov. Pat McCrory’s performance on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday morning has drawn multiple “thumbs down” reviews. This is from the lead editorial in this morning’s Winston-Salem Journal:

“Our state motto is ‘To be, rather than to seem.’ Sunday morning, before a nationwide audience on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Gov. Pat McCrory essentially flipped the motto: Make it ‘To seem, rather than to be.’

The governor smiled often and kept his tone civil as he defended most of House Bill 2, the new state law that makes room for ugly and uncivil discrimination against LGBT people and is costing our state millions of dollars in business boycotts. Show host Chuck Todd failed to adequately press McCrory on the provision of the law that mandates people use the public bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, a provision apparently aimed more at revving up the base for 2016 than any concerns about public safety.

Our governor emphasized dialogue on the issues raised, even though he gave no room for that before rapidly signing this egregious bill that the legislative leaders he follows pushed through.

We couldn’t help but think of politicians across the South who civilly defended segregation back in the day.”

And this is from this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“Despite his 10-minute dance on ‘Meet the Press,’ the governor keeps avoiding his obligation to explain to the public, through questions and answers from the media, why he allowed this law to go through. Instead, he has released videos in which he smiles about what he considers an overblown controversy and complains about the misunderstanding and hypocrisy of HB2’s opponents….

The governor’s failure to meet directly and at length with the North Carolina media is just making things worse. If the governor believes in HB2, if he goes along with its sponsors in the General Assembly, he should be forthright and stand up for his position, not obfuscate and dodge.

McCrory made a huge mistake in not vetoing HB2. One way to begin fixing the damage is to fully explain his thinking, respond to questions and describe what he’ll try to do about this law that is hurting North Carolina. It’s time for the governor to stop defending a legislative mistake and to start truly defending North Carolina.”


Editorial pages: How HB2 ensnared McCrory and what it says about his governorship

Gov. Pat McCrory

Gov. Pat McCrory

The drumbeat of editorials and op-eds decrying House Bill 2 continued to fill the editorial pages of the state’s major newspapers this weekend. Here are two, however, that really stood out:

First was Ned Barnett’s dissection of how the new discrimination law came to be in Sunday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer. As Barnett explains in “A tangled plan ensnared McCrory in HB2,” the law has clearly backfired on its architects who had planned to use it as a reelection tool for Gov. Pat McCrory. Here’s the conclusion:

“Those who thought they had backed Cooper into a corner didn’t realize that they were putting McCrory’s re-election chances into far greater jeopardy. In the haste and secrecy of the March special session, the get-Cooper bathroom gambit got combined with the Stam-Barefoot wish list. The mixture was explosive. It blew up into a national story, chilled the state’s appeal to businesses, entertainers and tourists and has McCrory backpedaling while declaring no retreat.

Meanwhile, a decision in the Virginia case McCrory so pointedly joined is expected any day. If the plaintiffs prevail, North Carolina could be looking at a loss of billions of dollars in federal aid for violating the rights of transgender people. This is a situation in which Republican lawmakers and strategists thought they were being clever but did something as dumb as it will be costly.”

Meanwhile, Taylor Batten of the Charlotte Observer authored the latest in a series of pointed critiques of McCrory’s performance in office. In “What kind of governor could McCrory have been?” Batten explains how HB2 is symbolic of the way McCrory has been transformed from the moderate mayor of Charlotte into the hapless water carrier for a far right General Assembly in Raleigh:

“He was a good kid, as long as he hung out with the right crowd. Always had a smile on his face, never got into trouble. If he ever started to stray down the wrong path, his friends pulled him back. He got along with everyone and became pretty popular.

Then he moved to a new town, and fell in with a tough bunch of guys. Peer pressure being what it is, he started doing bad things, even though at times deep down he knew better. The smile was replaced by a scowl and he was always getting in trouble. His old friends didn’t like him any more, but his new friends weren’t really his friends and pushed him around a lot.

Poor Pat McCrory. It didn’t have to be this way. But the environment he has found himself in as governor is altogether different from the one he enjoyed as Charlotte’s mayor. And for whatever reason – lack of advisers? lack of vision? lack of spine? – he was never able to adapt.

As I’ve watched him squirm for the past month over House Bill 2, I tried to envision an alternate universe: One in which McCrory is elected governor in 2012 along with a moderate legislature. What kind of governor would he have been?

An entirely different one, I expect. A collaborator. A moderate. Someone who annoyed the far left and the far right but who was widely popular and a near-lock for re-election.

You can rattle off a dozen things McCrory has done in just three years as governor to alienate big chunks of the state. You’d be hard-pressed to name one thing he did in 14 years as mayor that was indelibly polarizing….

Former supporters in Charlotte wonder why McCrory changed. He hasn’t, says fellow Republican Edwin Peacock, who served on the City Council while McCrory was mayor.

‘No, Pat hasn’t changed,’ Peacock said. ‘Pat is in a new environment. The environment Pat is in is one so foreign to where he was for 14 years.’

And because he didn’t adapt, Charlotte voters are looking at a very foreign Pat.”