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In case you missed it, Raleigh’s News & Observer has an excellent editorial today that takes Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger to task for his wrongheaded action to fire thousands of teacher assistants.

“Phil Berger knows better. A small-town lawyer by trade, the Republican president pro tem of the state Senate deals every day in his profession with figures and laws and details.

And he ought to know that his desperate grasp of weak straws to justify a draconian cut in teacher assistants as proposed in the Senate budget is not going to convince anyone that those cuts are harmless. Fortunately, the House budget is more moderate, perhaps reflecting the U.S. Senate ambitions of Speaker Thom Tillis, who knows he’ll have to broaden his appeal outside of the tea party sphere if he’s to have a chance to be elected statewide. Read More

Last night’s Moral Monday demonstrations took an unexpected turn when Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) decided to sit down with teachers, who were staked out in front of his office late last night, to debate some of the education policies he has put forward.

WUNC Education Reporter Dave Dewitt has a great story about how the night went off script and the debate that took place:

But here’s where script took an unexpected turn. Just a few seconds later, Senator Berger came around the corner, pulled some couches into a circle, and offered to have a discussion.

And that’s exactly what they did. For more than an hour and a half, Berger and the protesters discussed education policy and the challenges facing teachers. There were some heated moments, and some passionate disagreements.

For the most part, all parties were respectful. The protestors whittled their list to three items they wanted addressed: they wanted tenure back; they wanted teacher assistants restored; and they wanted Berger to hold a series of public meetings on education. At the end, Berger committed to nothing more than another conversation the next day to consider further meetings.

And instead of being led out in handcuffs, the 15 protesters walked out the front of the building, nodding to Capitol Police officers, to meet their supporters.

Proffitt spoke first: “So we sat down and we had a good conversation, which to my understanding this is the first time this has happened in the last couple of years. So I think this represents a win for the movement because I think we put enough pressure on them that they realized they had to have a conversation.”

When he was done, Bryan Proffitt stepped behind the crowd and tried to gather himself. Someone handed him a bottle of water and the sweater he thought he had lost, and he finally took a deep breath.

He admitted the night had not gone like he thought it would.

“Talk is cheap,” he said.” There needs to be a real opening. But if there’s an opening, we’ll take it. But if it means the threat of arrest, if that means risking arrest again, and putting negative pressure on them again, then we’ll be back.”

Click here to read or listen to DeWitt’s full story.

 

 

ff3072013We’re just a couple of weeks into the 2014 session of the North Carolina General Assembly, but the annual legislative silly season has already commenced. Not familiar with silly season? That’s the time of year in which legislative leaders force their members to work all kinds of silly, late night hours in order to limit media coverage and handicap/wear down those who might want to criticize or contest their agenda (i.e. the minority party).

Usually, silly season doesn’t start until there have been several months (or, at least, several weeks) of actual, semi-normal  legislative process, but this year, in keeping with the current majority’s increasingly pathological aversion to sunlight and transparency, it’s starting just days after the session itself commenced. The Senate is kicking silly season off today with a wholly unnecessary Friday afternoon session, followed by an even more unnecessary post-midnight session early tomorrow morning, during which it will ram though its destructive 2015 budget proposal.

And lest you get the mistaken impression that lawmakers will actually be working longer hours during silly season, rest assured that this will almost certainly not be the case. Read More

This morning’s editorial in the Charlotte Observer gets yesterday’s state Senate proposal on teacher pay and the “choice” it would offer teachers on the matter just about right:

“The plan, announced by Senate leader Phil Berger, would boost teacher pay by an average of 11 percent – the largest increase in N.C. history, Berger says. It’s significantly more than Gov. Pat McCrory proposed this month in his teacher pay plan, and it would lift North Carolina all the way from 46th to 27th in the nation in teacher pay.

That wasn’t so hard, was it?…

Then there’s the plan’s caveat: If teachers want to receive the substantial pay increase Republicans are offering, they must give up the ‘career status’ – or tenure – that N.C. law guarantees. Republicans already tried to eliminate tenure last year, but a Superior Court judge ruled this month that it is unconstitutional to take that career status away from teachers who already have earned it.

Now Republicans are trying to make teachers give tenure up “voluntarily” by dangling the pay increase in front of them. We’re not sure how the two – tenure and pay – are otherwise connected. Tenure offers teachers two primary protections – a hearing process when a teacher is being dismissed or demoted for any of 15 reasons that include poor performance and neglect of duty, plus a similar hearing process when a teacher is dismissed because of budget or staffing issues.

Both protections make it more time consuming and costly to fire teachers, but neither is costly enough to be paired with teacher pay, as Senate Republicans are doing. If they want to argue that teachers don’t deserve protection from layoffs that most of the rest of us don’t get, as Berger suggested Wednesday, that’s a legitimate and separate debate to have. But to finally give teachers the raise they’ve earned, only to make them give up the tenure they’ve also earned, is unfair.

Lawmakers should take up tenure later and concentrate on the intended task at hand – raising the pay of our public school teachers. As Senate Republicans and the governor are showing, it’s something that’s within reach, if they want it to be.”

You can read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/05/28/4938240/forward-back-on-teacher-pay.html#.U4cMTXZB_4t#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/05/28/4938240/forward-back-on-teacher-pay.html#.U4cMTXZB_4t#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/05/28/4938240/forward-back-on-teacher-pay.html#.U4cMTXZB_4t#storylink=cpy

It was North Carolina Thom Tillis who infamously described his political plan for North Carolina as an effort to “divide and conquer” those who opposed the conservative move to repeal much of the progress of the 2oth Century, but this morning it sounds like it will be Tillis’ frequent political nemesis, Senate leader Phil Berger, who will be pushing the “divide and conquer” strategy in the days to come.

According to news reports, the Senate will roll out a new proposed budget today that will offer public school teachers sizable raises in exchange for giving up their career status (i.e. their right not to be fired without at least some good reason). And while details are still emerging, it seems a certainty that such a potentially costly plan will be funded with new and painful cuts to other important public structures and services (e.g. health care for the poor, higher education and the justice and public safety system).

In other words, it appears the Senate will propose a “divide and conquer” budget today — one that divides and pits teachers against each other and that divides and pits public education against other vital public functions.

Meanwhile, over in the House, Speaker Tillis is probably consulting with his legal team over his options to sue from copyright infringement.