TeachersIn case you missed it, yesterday’s lead editorial in the Fayetteville Observer did a fine job of summing up the continuing war on public school teachers being waged by the state’s political leadership:

After decrying the large teacher shortages that plague school systems across the state and some recent national surveys that put the state at the bottom of the pack for its treatment of teachers (and which also describe a decade-long spiral in North Carolina) , the editorial says this:

“Add to that the legislative dismantling of the state’s teacher-assistant program, lawmakers’ assault on the association that is a weak version of a teachers union, and an attempt to end teachers’ also-flimsy tenure rights, and it’s easy to see why they’re wearing out the exit door.

A pay raise for new teachers, hiking their starting salary to $35,000, may help attract talent to North Carolina schools, but it won’t keep them here for long, because more experienced teachers have made little or no salary headway.

That 10-year trend should be a reminder, too, that the decline in teacher salaries – from around the national median to something approaching the bottom of the barrel – is a bipartisan exercise. It started while Democrats controlled the legislative and executive branches, then was pushed along by the Republicans when they took over.

Our lawmakers can pursue all the educational reform in the world, but it won’t work until we can attract and keep good teachers. We’ll do that when we boost salaries back to the national median.

Let’s be clear: Without a great K-12 education system, most of our other goals are out of reach. And without good, well-paid teachers in our classrooms, our education initiatives will fail.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.


school suppliesIn case you missed yesterday’s Fitzsimon File, be sure to check out the fascinating and damning find from the recent state budget that Chris highlights.

It turns out that conservative state lawmakers have been bragging in the aftermath of the 2015 session about how they revived a tax break for teachers that they previously put on the books in 2011 and then allowed to expire in 2013. The tax break provides a small deduction for teachers (at least, those well off enough to itemize deductions) for their out-of-pocket costs for purchasing classroom supplies up to $250. This means that if a teacher takes the full deduction — meaning they spent $250 or more on supplies — they would save a whopping $14.75 on their state tax bill!

You really can’t make this stuff up. As Chris noted yesterday:

“It [the tax deduction] reimburses teachers for [a tiny portion] of their purchases but also reminds them that the folks currently running things in Raleigh have no intention of properly funding the schools. And they are counting on teachers themselves to pick up the slack.

Thanks to cuts in recent sessions, there are now 7,500 fewer teacher assistants in the classroom before the recession.

Taking the philosophy of the tax credit for supplies to its logical conclusion, teachers who don’t like it and need the extra help in the classroom should stop complaining and hire the TAs themselves and pay them personally. Maybe lawmakers will reward them with another tax break worth a few dollars.

That’s what it has come to in our public schools. Adequately funding the classrooms is apparently no longer on the table.”

The bottom line: It’s hard to know what’s more laughably outrageous — the notion that lawmakers would underfund schools and toss this minuscule crumb in the first place or that they would then go on to brag about it as some kind of real achievement. Whichever the case, it’s clear that: a) state leaders continue to treat North Carolina school teachers as so many disposable units and b) the cynicism surrounding their miserly and shortsighted policy decisions knows few bounds.


You’d think Gov. Pat McCrory would be embarrassed to release a video recognizing state employees (see below) on the same day that the ink is drying on a new state budget that once more leaves them mostly out in the cold, but, alas, a capacity for being embarrassed does not appear to be a part of the Guv’s makeup. Here’s Chris Fitzsimon explaining the details in today’s Fitzsimon File:

“In a case of perfect timing, Governor Pat McCrory released a video Friday morning thanking state employees for their service to North Carolina and declaring next week State Employee Recognition Week.

Later in the morning McCrory signed a state budget that denies most state employees a raise, instead giving them a one-time $750 bonus that will not count toward their retirement.

The lack of a raise comes despite a state revenue surplus. Legislative leaders and McCrory decided to cut taxes again, primarily on corporations and the wealthy, instead of giving state workers even the modest two percent across the board pay increase the House budget originally proposed.

McCrory wants to recognize state employees—but not pay them very much.”

Back in May, McCrory said he wanted the state’s budget surplus to be used to give state employees a raise. Today, he signed a budget that does no such thing and dispensed the following virtual pat on the back in its place:

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Budget see sawLegislative leaders did their best yesterday afternoon to spin their new budget agreement in a positive light by describing it as a compromise that spends more than last year in absolute dollars and that eschews some of the more radical proposals that had been discussed during the seemingly endless 2015 legislative session. Much of what’s in it remains to be seen as it appears the 429 page document is chock full of special provisions unrelated to the budget.

That said, the central, overarching reality is this: The new agreement is another austerity budget that keeps state employees and veteran teachers stuck on the salary treadmill to nowhere on which they’ve been trapped for years.

As this morning’s Weekly Briefing notes:

“In the last decade and a half, most state employees have seen only two years of decent pay hikes – 2006 and 2007, when lawmakers granted raises of 5.5% and 4% respectively. Other than those two years, raises have been non-existent or tiny. It’s gotten so bad that a page on the website of the State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC) actually brags about the 2014 annual raise of $1,000 (less than $20 per week before taxes) as a major accomplishment!

And, of course, it was just yesterday that legislative leaders pushed the repeat button by confirming that most state employees would receive only a flat, one-time bonus of $750 for the new fiscal year. That’s $14.42 per week before taxes or about $2.88 per day. Next year, employees will be back where they were last year when and if the issue is revisited. State government retirees will get no increase at all.

It doesn’t take a math degree to understand that such treatment is pushing state workers further and further behind the eight ball. Since 2001, general U.S. inflation has been around 35%. And, of course, many other expenses have risen even faster. And while U.S. workers have, overall, experienced only flat wage growth for years, at least it’s been flat. State employee compensation in North Carolina, on the other hand, has risen roughly half the inflation rate since the start of the century.”

Simply put, there’s no way to move a state forward when year after year, the human beings who make up the government are repeatedly disrespected and treated as expendable cogs.  Sadly, this year’s budget does just that once again.