What follows is an excellent case study in how voters need to be very skeptical consumers in an election year, particularly as it relates to Republican officeholders claiming to care about issues where their historical reputation is ... let's just say ... a bit compromised.
(The list of those issues, for what it is worth, is a lengthy one.)
This fall, when North Carolina's embattled GOP legislative majority begins their respective bids for re-election, Tar Heel State voters will undoubtedly be inundated with ads hailing the GOP legislature for fighting for "huge increases in teacher pay."
And, indeed, the budget plan approved in committee by the state Senate does propose a salary increase of over 11 percent.
As you would expect when dealing with a legislative body as right-wing as the North Carolina legislature, however, there is a catch. Two of them, in fact.
Please read below the fold to find out what they are.
While Republicans promoted the budget for offering veteran teachers pay raises above 10 percent, they also had to find the $468 million to fund the raises. They made line-item cuts totaling $390 million, of which more than half came from reducing funds that school districts could otherwise use to hire 7,400 teacher assistants.Yup, don't make the mistake of presuming that this budget somehow grows the educational pie in any meaningful way. Rather than ask others to share the sacrifice in order to fund quality compensation for teachers, the GOP majority simply stole the money from elsewhere in the education budget. On top of other cuts, the state's Association of School Adminstrators estimated job losses north of 10,000 statewide.
This is hardly novel. Politicians (and, mournfully, not all of them Republicans) have made an annoying habit of pitting critical cogs in the public education machine against one another when it comes time to distribute funds, in the never-ending political parlor game of divide and conquer.
Nor is the other part of the "teacher raise" story particularly novel. Feast your eyes on catch #2:
The pay raises, announced Wednesday before the budget’s release, would give an 11.2 percent average increase for veteran teachers, but only for those who voluntarily give up their tenure. Those who don’t would be left on the current salary schedule with little or no pay raise, Republicans said.This is almost assuredly in response to legislative Republicans getting spanked earlier in the month by a federal judge, who gutted their 2013 law repealing teacher tenure. Senate Republicans now are trying to sneak stripping tenure through the backdoor by forcing teachers to either swallow having their professional rights hatcheted, or living with the same flatlined wages they've suffered through for six years (save a putrid 1.2 percent raise in 2012).
One Republican lawmaker admitted as much:
"We're giving teachers a full choice. If the tenure is important to them," Berger said, "they can keep it. If however what they want to do is move to this new pay scale, they can do that as well."That Berger feels this is an either/or decision speaks volumes of his, and his party's, level of "commitment" to teachers, and to education. One hopes North Carolina voters remember this come November.