Commentary, Education, News

Editorial: Teachers deserve respect from North Carolina lawmakers

A new editorial from Capitol Broadcasting Company takes North Carolina legislators to task over teacher pay, part of a long-running series of criticisms against Republican leaders in the N.C. General Assembly.

Teacher pay has been on the rise in recent years, but the state’s pay plunged from 2009 to 2018 when adjusted for inflation.

State legislative leaders have attempted to combat those critiques in recent weeks, but the editorial calls on lawmakers to stop the “spin.”

From the CBC editorial:

North Carolina’s legislative leaders have come up with lots of ways to say they’re paying public school teachers well. With the help of Republican-oriented “think tanks” they point to questionable claims of accelerated pay raises, cost-of-living differentials and use local supplements – particularly from a handful of the state’s urban school districts – to paint a rosier pay picture.

First, average teacher pay – the average salary for all North Carolina’s public school teachers – is NOT what the average teacher makes. Nearly two-thirds of the state’s public classroom teachers were paid LESS than the average.

Also, average teacher pay includes local supplements, money that comes from local taxpayers in specific districts, that vary widely depending on the school district. Several districts don’t provide any supplements. Yet, the expectations of a second grade teacher in Bertie County (which doesn’t provide a local supplement) are no different than the expectations of a second grade teacher in Wake County, which provides one of the most generous supplements. In fact, North Carolina courts have ruled the state’s Constitution mandates “a sound basic education” for every child.

The unfortunate reality is that North Carolina has become something of a national punching bag for teacher pay. Earlier this month the New York Times, in a story titled ”The Second Shift: What teachers are doing to pay their bills,” highlighted an Iredell County middle school teacher (who reached peak pay and has been in the classroom for 19 years) forced to work a second job to make ends meet.

recent report from the Economic Policy Institute showed the gap between wages for teachers and other college graduates is at the highest level ever. The pay differential – the institute calls the difference between what teachers are paid in relation to comparable workers as the “teacher pay penalty.” North Carolina ranks 49th – only Arizona is worse. North Carolina teachers earn 35.5 cents on the dollar compared to what other college graduates earn.

Overall public school education funding still lags. “In constant dollars, North Carolina’s spending per student peaked at $9,952 in 2007-08, ranking 40th in the nation. State support per student continued to slide to $8,784 in 2012-13, when North Carolina ranked 46th. As North Carolina’s population continued to grow, state legislators made incremental increases until spending per student reached an estimated $9,528 in 2017-18, ranking 39th. But spending per student still remained $424 less than pre-recession levels in 2017-18, after adjusting for inflation,” according to a recent analysis from the Higher Education Works Foundation.

This is not a record that represents a commitment to quality public schools and respect for the professionalism teachers bring to the classroom.

Commentary

New editorial blasts constitutional amendments

The Greensboro News & Record has another strong editorial this morning condemning the six constitutional amendments that Republican legislators have placed on the state’s fall ballot. After summarizing the amendments, some of the details that will undoubtedly escap most voters, and a recent poll that found voters distressingly, if predictably, uninformed about them, the editorial concludes this way:

“One other thing you might want to know: How will the General Assembly implement any laws you approve? There is no answer for that.

Let’s be clear about one overriding issue: Taking up these items as constitutional amendments is bad governing. They don’t meet the arduous standards for being part of the document that shapes our government. A constitution doesn’t include laws but structures and principles.

These are ideas that should be debated as legislation, not foisted on you as doctrine you may not embrace and maybe haven’t even read. But if you have, if you are in the know, you should vote no.”

Commentary, News

Report: GOP tried to speed up vote after learning of second (and third?) Kavanaugh accuser

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress filed this commentary last night in response to the story from the New Yorker that a second accuser has emerged against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh:

“A second woman says that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh violated her sexually, according to a new report by the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer. The woman, Deborah Ramirez, alleges that Kavanaugh “thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away” while they were both drinking at a dorm room party at Yale University.

Worse, Farrow and Mayer’s report suggests that Senate Republicans tried to speed up Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote upon learning of this second accuser. ‘Senior Republican staffers also learned of the allegation last week,’ according to the report. ‘Soon after, Senate Republicans issued renewed calls to accelerate the timing of a committee vote.’

Ramirez’s accusation follows another allegation by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who says that Kavanaugh tried to rape her during a high school party when Ford, who is known professionally as Dr. Blasey, was only 15. Ford is expected to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about this allegation on Thursday.”

Clearly, if there’s any justice left in Washington, this latest revelation will derail the Kavanaugh nomination or halt it until a full FBI investigation can take place. Senators Tillis and Burr need to do the right thing and speak up now to demand that that the nomination be withdrawn, or at a minimum, put on the back shelf for several weeks.

UPDATE: RollCall is now reporting that yet another Kavanaugh will soon come forward. This is from a story updated late last night:

“At about the same time [that Kavanaugh was denying the Ford allegation] , Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who rose to fame by aggressively taking on President Donald Trump on behalf of his client Stormy Daniels, tweeted that he had another woman with an allegation who will be demanding that Kavanaugh’s nomination be withdrawn.

‘I represent a woman with credible information regarding Judge Kavanaugh and Mark Judge. We will be demanding the opportunity to present testimony to the committee and will likewise be demanding that Judge and others be subpoenaed to testify,’ Avenatti tweeted. ‘My client is not Deborah Ramirez.’”

Commentary, NC Budget and Tax Center

New county data reveal the growing gap between NC’s top 1% and everyone else

Alexandra Sirota of the NC Budget and Tax Center has a new entry in the BTC’s Prosperity Watch series:

The New Gilded Age in NC: The gap between top 1% and everyone else is growing

North Carolina’s economic recovery has not only failed to reach many communities, the income gains that have occurred have accrued to those at the very top of the income distribution — further growing inequality across the state.

As researchers note in a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, income inequality is not an inevitable outcome of economic growth but is tied to the policy choices that guide who benefits from growth that does occur and by how much. Furthermore, income inequality puts at risk the attainment of various important economic and social goals, including the potential for longer growth, improved well-being, and economic mobility.

This unique county level analysis measured income inequality between the top 1 percent and bottom 99 percent to show that communities across the country have experienced rising income inequality since 2010.

The data for North Carolina is startling. From 2010 to 2015, in 28 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, the top 1 percent captured a greater share of the income growth than that captured by the bottom 99 percent.

The difference in income between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent is greatest in urban areas. In the state’s urban counties, the top 1 percent have incomes that are 23 times that of the bottom 99 percent, whereas in the state’s rural counties that ratio is 14 times that of the bottom 99 percent.

As the map shows, 12 counties saw the incomes of the bottom 99 percent of residents decline and 42 counties have ratios where the top 1 percent had incomes 15 times or higher than the bottom 99 percent.  In 14 counties, the top 1 percent have more than 20 times the income of the bottom 99 percent — Mecklenburg (31.2), Macon (26.7), Iredell (26.1), Forsyth (25.2), Guilford (24.9), Alleghany (24.8), Orange (24.6), Union (22.7), New Hanover (22.6), Lenoir (21.5), Montgomery (21.2), Chowan (20.3), Buncombe (20.1) and Pitt (20.1) — thereby performing worse than the national average of this ratio.

Here is a table of county income inequality from the Sommelier and Price research. 

 

Commentary

NC Secretary of Labor Berry may have hit a new low with hurricane statement

Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry

Wow. Just when you thought it was impossible for North Carolina’s Secretary of Employers…er ah…Labor, Cherie Berry — a woman who has managed to make a well-compensated career out of slapping her face on elevators and keeping the employers who bankroll her campaigns happy by doing as little as possible to protect workers — to go any further in proving that her title is a cruel joke, she plumbs new depths. As a story by Bruce Rolfsen of Bloomberg Environment recently reported, Berry contends that North Carolina’s “at-will” employment law trumps everything else — even common sense and public safety in the face of Hurricane Florence. This is from the story:

“Employees who don’t report to work during dangerous hurricane conditions could be fired under a North Carolina policy.

Labor attorneys, however, say employers who fire workers for not showing up in hazardous weather could be violating state and federal OSHA safety laws.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s emergency declaration and warnings to stay off the road as Hurricane Florence approaches don’t overrule an employer’s rights under state law to fire a worker for not showing up or leaving without permission, the state Department of Labor’s hazardous weather guidance said.

Although Cooper, a Democrat, is the governor, an independently elected commissioner oversees the Labor Department. Cherie Berry, a Republican, has headed the department since 2001.

Mary Katherine Revels, public information officer for the department, told Bloomberg Environment that it stands behind the guidance.

‘Even if the governor declares a state of emergency, employers can require employees to report to work,’ Revels said.”

After noting that employee lawyers disputed the statement and argued that it could be in violation of federal law, Rolfsen’s story continued:

“The labor department guidance says that because North Carolina is an ‘at-will’ employment state, an ’employer can hire or discharge employees at the will of the employer for any reason or no reason at all.’

The state advises that an employer can ‘simply inform its employees that they must report to work whenever the business is open regardless of the weather conditions or road conditions.’

Workers who want to avoid being fired for not working during a hurricane can ask their employer to create a written ‘adverse weather policy’ specifying when they won’t be expected to be on the job, the guidance said.”

It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at Berry’s dreadful negligence and just plain mean-spirited contempt for average people, who — she clearly believes — should have to risk their lives and even violate state emergency directives in order to keep their jobs. One thing is for certain, however: no set of words in North Carolina government constitute more of an oxymoron than “Secretary of Labor Cherie Berry.”