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TeachersWhen politicians talk about “running government like a business,” for many of us (even skeptics) it conjures up vague images  of hard-nosed accountants demanding results and issuing edicts to do away with no bid contracts and wasteful outlays for  travel and fancy meals. A new report from the top-flight journalists at Pro Publica, however, paints a much clearer portrait of what the future actually holds in the regard: temp workers — lots and lots of temp workers.

This is from the report, “A Modern Day ‘Harvest of Shame‘”:

“Half a century ago, the legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow came to this pancake-flat town in central New Jersey to document the plight of migrant farmworkers for a television special called “Harvest of Shame.”

Today, many of Cranbury’s potato fields have been built up with giant warehouses that form a distribution hub off Exit 8A of the Jersey Turnpike.

But amid this 21st century system of commerce, an old way of labor persists. Temporary workers make a daily migration on buses to this area, just as farmworkers did for every harvest in the 1960s. Temp workers today face many similar conditions in how they get hired, how they live and what they can afford to eat. Adjusted for inflation, many of today’s temp workers earn roughly the same amount as those farmworkers did 50 years ago.

Across the country, farms full of migrant workers have been replaced with warehouses full of temp workers, as American consumers depend more on foreign products, online shopping and just-in-time delivery. It is a story that begins at the ports of Los Angeles and Newark, N.J., follows the railroads to Chicago and ends at your neighborhood box store, or your doorstep.

The temp industry now employs 2.8 million workers – the highest number and highest proportion of the American workforce in history. As the economy continues to recover from the Great Recession, temp work has grown nine times faster than private-sector employment as a whole. Overall, nearly one-sixth of the total job growth since the recession ended has been in the temp sector.”

And, of course, if  a phenomenon like this is good enough for the “free market,” it’s gotta’ be a “must” for the brave new world of conservative-run government like the one North Carolinians are currently enduring. Any more questions about why state leaders are so anxious to, effectively, turn thousands upon thousands of public school teachers into temps?  That’s right: they want to “run government like a business.”

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More than 94 percent of respondents to a survey conducted by researchers at UNC-Wilmington said that they felt public education in North Carolina is headed in the wrong direction and overwhelmingly trusted teachers and administrators — not lawmakers — to make educational decisions for the state’s public schools.

Residents of North Carolina, 80 percent of which were parents with children in public schools, were surveyed about the quality and direction of education in the state and asked to react to recent legislative decisions passed by the General Assembly, including the removal of additional funding for teachers who earn advanced degrees, implementation of a voucher program, removal of class size limits, and the abolishment of tenure, among others.

  • More than 85 percent of respondents disagreed with the state’s decision to provide low-income families with private school vouchers.
  • Ninety-six percent of participants disagreed with the removal of additional pay for teachers earning a master’s degree in education.
  • More than 76 percent of respondents disagreed with the elimination of teacher tenure. 
  • Ninety-six percent of participants disagreed with the removal of class size caps.
  • Ninety-five percent of respondents disagreed with the decision to not increase teacher salaries in 2013 for the fourth time in five years.

Participants were also given the chance to respond to the survey in their own words. Below are a few of those comments:

“These laws will not improve NC education, but destroy it!”

“I am just very disappointed in the direction NC education is headed. I hope to find work in another state that values children and education. NC is no longer that state.”

“I am shocked, angered and saddened by the direction of education in this state, all at the hands of the current legislature and governor. Because of these devastating changes, and in spite of a strong desire to teach again, I will not likely re-enter the profession.”

“My family is very concerned about the direction in which the 2013 NC State Legislature seems to be taking our public education system. We have two children enrolled in public schools now, and have witnessed firsthand the exodus of quality teachers and the swelling of class sizes. At all levels, we will be paying attention to candidates’ attitudes, statements, and actions regarding this issue and will vote accordingly.”

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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

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Gov. Pat McCrory, House Speaker Thom Tillis, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and Lt. Gov. Dan Forrest announced this morning a teacher pay plan that boosts salaries for less experienced teachers in North Carolina, but leaves behind the vast majority – approximately 65,000 teachers out of the state’s 95,000+ — who have worked here longer and whose wages have been effectively frozen for the past five years.

Teachers who started at the bottom of the pay scale five years ago have been stuck at $30,800 since that time, not counting local supplements. McCrory’s plan would guarantee that beginning teachers make at least $33,000 annually in 2014-15, and for 2015-16, base pay for teachers would increase again to $35,000.

GOP leaders estimate that approximately 32,000 teachers would benefit from the proposal. There are roughly 95,000 teachers in North Carolina, which means that three quarters of the teaching workforce would see their salaries frozen for the sixth year in a row. (Teachers did get a 1.2% pay raise in 2010, but that was offset by an increase in health care premiums).

McCrory said funds already available will be used to pay for the announced salary increase for beginning teachers. Approximately $250 million went unspent in the general budget during last year’s budget negotiations, begging the question: why didn’t the raise come last year, when funds were available then?

Also unclear: is McCrory’s plan a true pay raise, meaning the pay bump for new teachers will be recurring? Or is it a one-time bonus, leaving salaries to revert back to their previous levels after 2016?

On another note, supplemental pay will be awarded for those teachers who completed master’s degree programs by July 1, 2013. Previously, only those who had finished their degrees by April 1, 2013 would have received the pay bump, causing consternation for many who wouldn’t have been able to complete their degrees mid-semester in order to make the cutoff.

But going forward, it appears lawmakers will stick with the plan to deny graduate degree holders salary increases for advancing their education.

McCrory said that future announcements will be made with regard to teacher pay in the coming months. There was no mention of restoring other budget reductions to public education, which include drastic cuts to teacher assistants and classroom supplies, and lifting the cap on classroom sizes, among others.