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TeachersOccasional NC Policy Watch contributor and Asheville communications consultant Betsey Russell sent us the following essay about her experience with business plans (like the one advanced by Gov. McCrory this week) that target pay raises for junior employees at the expense of veterans:

The Value of Experience
By Betsey Russell

A few years ago, I sold my small company to a larger one. I had a small staff of experienced professionals at my firm, most with several years under their belts and a strong intention to stay in our line of work. They were hardworking, creative, and extremely valuable in terms of our overall profitability. In fact, their work is what helped make my firm attractive for the purchaser.

So, imagine my dismay when I was negotiating on behalf of my staff with the new company owner about compensation and benefits, and he suggested that instead of retaining these highly trained professionals, he might simply replace them with workers who were “younger and cheaper.”

This experience came to mind when I reviewed Governor McCrory’s plans to increase the salaries of starting teachers, but not the salaries of the valuable veterans I have so appreciated in my children’s classrooms. Read More

Editorials from North Carolina’s major newspapers are starting to come in on the Governor’s plan to raise pay for about a third of the state’s teachers. Here are four:

The Greensboro News & Record:

“Why show respect for just one-third of teachers? Why only invest in some? Leaving out the two-thirds who worked the longest for low pay betrays a poor regard for their contributions. The governor should push for an across-the-board increase, along with an extra boost for starting salaries.”

The Charlotte Observer: Read More

Pat McCrory 4Maybe it’s the ongoing game of musical chairs in Gov. Pat McCrory’s communications staff or maybe it’s just the man himself, but whatever it is, the Governor’s public pronouncements continue to be peppered with admissions and allegations that bespeak a remarkable degree of obliviousness to the facts and the implications of his administration’s policies.

Yesterday morning’s announcement on raising teacher pay for new teachers featured a classic example. As the Governor began his remarks on his proposal and attempted to lay out the groundwork for it, he made the following rather amazing (and, one has to note, grammatically-challenged) admission:

“Today sadly, the starting teacher pay in North Carolina makes only $30,800. You know, that’s not even enough to raise a family or to pay off student loans, which this new generation of teachers are having to borrow money to go to college at this point in time. How do we expect someone to pay back that loan at that starting salary?”

While the Guv deserves an “attaboy” for making such a statement (yes, teachers make too little and government should do something about it!) he deserves nothing but a big “what the heck?!” for the stunning hypocrisy and lack of awareness it shows with respect to so many of his other policies. Read More

N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos announced at a legislative hearing this morning that her department met a federal deadline yesterday to clear a backlog of families waiting for emergency food assistance.

Wos told lawmakers that “Herculean efforts” were used by county-based and state workers to address more than 23,000 households that, in late January, had been waiting weeks or months for federally-funded food stamps.

DHHS used 290 state state, hired temporary workers, made home visits and used volunteer time offered by a handful of legislative assistants to meet the deadline, she said.

She said there were only 25 cases remaining of the thousands the U.S. Department of Agriculture called to be eliminated. The federal agency threatened withholding $80 million in funding in December and January if North Carolina didn’t quickly address the issue.

The logjam of cases first began popping up last spring as the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services implemented pieces of a complex benefits delivery system called NC FAST that county-level workers had difficulty maneuvering or even getting to work in some case.

“I can assure you that DHHS will continue to work as aggressively as we have,” Wos said.

While both Republican and Democratic lawmakers said they were pleased the vast majority of the backlog had been handled, some expressed concern about how long it took the state agency to ensure needy families were getting food.

“I’m very gratified that we finally have this backlog behind us,” said state Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat. “The thing that disappoints me that is that it took seven months to address the backlog and we had several thousand people harmed in the process.”

Updated caseload numbers are available here and here. The USDA deadline for the agency was to clear a backlog of cases of the most hard-pressed families, many of them  in emergency situations.

The agency will need to clear the entire backlog or food stamp applications and recertifications by March 31, currently at 14,333 recertifications and 754 applications, according to DHHS documents. (13,821 of the recertifications are only one to 14 days behind, and are considered “timely” by DHHS and USDA)

Below is the letter that Wos sent to USDA officials yesterday.

USDA February 10 2014 by NC Policy Watch