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North Carolina’s recent wintry weather has helped give rise to a lot of pent up activity this week. Tonight at 7:00 pm for instance, is an excellent event at the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies entitled “Organizing the South: How a Southern Workers’ Movement Can Change the Nation.” Click here for more information and here to watch the video livestream tonight.

And speaking of not-to-be-missed events, be sure if you get the chance to check out the Raleigh showing of “Inequality for All,” Robert Reich’s powerful new movie about America’s modern economy. The event will be held on Tuesday, February 18 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at William Peace University’s Browne-McPherson Music Building. Parking is free on campus. Click here for more information.

And speaking of the exploding inequality of the modern economy, check out economist Dean Baker’s essay from over the weekend in which he explains how America’s inequality hasn’t occurred by accident or simply as the result of the talent and hard work of the top 1%. To the contrary, as Baker explains, it’s happened “by design.”

And speaking of things that are exploding, the Duke Coal Ash disaster continues to be the biggest story in the North Carolina policy world. Read More

After Gov. Pat McCrory and state legislative leaders announced their pay raise plan for new and less-experienced teachers last week, a pair of veteran teachers from Davie County (who also happen to be married) felt compelled to respond. Here is their open letter:

Dear Governor McCrory,

We moved here in 1998 from New York. North Carolina promised us a chance at living our dreams and becoming teachers. Although it was difficult, we moved 600 miles south, away from family and friends, away from the comforts of home, to start a life in Davie County. Culture shock aside, things went well. We assimilated quickly and seamlessly became crucial parts of our school and community’s culture. Both of us were elected Teacher of the Year for our schools, became National Board Certified Teachers, and achieved our Masters Degrees from North Carolina Universities. Life was good. Each of us became respected members of our school. We bought a modest house in a new neighborhood and in a few years two children were born.

We made a good living, were able to take small vacations and laugh. We could fill up our tanks and buy groceries without having to constantly check to be sure we could afford these necessities.

We didn’t expect to become rich doing the job we love to do. We knew from the very beginning that the payoff in education is not the savings account, but in the touched lives and future investment. We knew we would always need to balance our checkbooks and account for the summers off, but we were okay with that. We were able to live our lives, put two children in daycare, and still invest a little bit for the future.

Sixteen years later, things are different. Read More

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