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Pat McCrory 4Dan ForestWith yesterday’s mostly predictable election out of the way, state policy debates will actually take center stage in North Carolina for a few weeks. Not surprisingly though, the process will begin today with a rather strange pair of competing press conferences in which the ideological battles that played out in the Republican Party primary between the far right and the ultra-far-right will be renewed. As WRAL.com reported last night:

“Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday that he plans to roll out a ‘major education announcement’ in Greensboro on Wednesday that will address long-term issues and focus on rewarding teachers for good work….

The governor plans to join educators, state and local officials and business leaders at North Carolina A&T State University for the 10 a.m. announcement.

Four hours later, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest will join Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, chief education budget writer in the Senate, in Raleigh to ‘unveil a new fund to supplement teacher pay in North Carolina public schools.’

Talk about the right hand not keeping up with the left (or, in this case, the right hand not keeping up with the extreme right). Of course, it’s been common knowledge in Raleigh for a long time that Forest is the darling of the Tea Party/religious right crowd and that he has been building a network of supporters to help him run for Governor in 2020 (or maybe even 2016 if McCrory continues to falter). Could it be that the contest between these two will begin today with, ironically enough, competing proposals over teacher pay — a subject over which the GOP has been pummeled for its budget-slashing policies? Stay tuned — it could be that an interesting next chapter in state policy wars is about to begin.

It’s not a new argument from North Carolina conservatives; we’ve been hearing from the so-called “free market think tanks” for years. Still it was a bit of an eye opener to read the following letter from State Senator Warren Daniel to a North Carolinian who expressed concerns about the state’s abysmal teacher salaries (as first posted at the site Pay Our Teachers First):

“Ms. Greene,

Do teachers teach because they love teaching, & they love children, or
because they are paid at some national average? Are you considering that
in addition to the State salary, teachers also make approximately 14
thousand dollars in taxpayer paid benefits, and most counties have salary
supplements? In addition, compared to similarly situated state
employees, a teacher’s work year is approximately two months shorter.
While a department of corrections employee or a highway patrolman may
have to work on Christmas and Thanksgiving, teachers receive vacations
for every major holiday and are with their families. Read More

North Carolina’s General Assembly reconvenes in less than two weeks and it’s still unclear whether veteran teachers or state employees will see a pay raise this year.

Governor Pat McCrory has said raising the base salary for starting K-12 teachers is his goal, but available revenue will determine if others see a jump in pay.

State Schools Superintendent June Atkinson, who joins us this weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon, says the state cannot afford to overlook any of its teachers:

“One of the first priorities must be to give all of our teachers a raise, ” said Atkinson in a radio interview with NC Policy Watch.

Atkinson also shares her thoughts on the proposal by some lawmakers to ditch the Common Core and replace it with new state standards, which have yet to be developed.

For an excerpt of Dr. Atkinson’s weekend radio interview, click below:
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In today’s News & Observer, a teacher from Culbreth Middle School in Chapel Hill writes about how her colleagues are running out of patience — and money.

Not only is our patience waning, but our strong sense of fairness also is having a difficult time reconciling what is happening to public education in the state of North Carolina. When I accepted my job as a teacher in 2007, I signed a contract – a contract that said I would receive very modest increases to my salary each year. Considering there are no other avenues for advancement as a classroom teacher, this made sense. Now, having never received the step increases I was promised, I have lost $11,360 in salary.

This year alone, I should make $5,400 more than I do. Without this income, I and many of my colleagues have taken on second jobs or are coaching and tutoring at our schools to fill the void. In fact 70 percent of the staff at my school must supplement their incomes this way to make ends meet. Even then, three staff members at Culbreth qualify for food stamps.

Then we saw the state pass tax breaks for the wealthy and further slash education budgets last year. And we began to realize: This is no longer a matter of patience. The treatment of public education in this state is an injustice. And since we teachers have no ability in this state to organize, and we don’t have enough money or clout to influence legislators, we have no choice but to speak with our feet.

Read the full text of Megan Taber’s letter here.

The Charlotte Observer hits the nail on the head with this editorial on the latest controversy surrounding North Carolina’s supposedly public charter schools:

“It’s disappointing that officials of some N.C. charter schools are trying to evade full disclosure of who gets paid what at the schools. Charters are ‘public’ schools and should be subject to the same transparency requirements as all other public schools. Read More