By Bill Moore

I believe the move by the NEA in NC is more political than economic. The NC NEA is calling for a rally in Raleigh on the 16th.They claim it is not a strike or walkout but they ae encouraging teachers to attend the rally with the expectation of pressuring the Republican General Assembly to expend additional dollars for education. Districts will waste needed money for substitutes or they will close and students will lose a needed day of instruction

Full disclosure- I am a retired Principal who has lead schools in both North Carolina and New York. I am not anti- teacher as I have great respect for the teachers I have worked with over the years.

However, in this incident I believe they are being used as a political pawn. Why? In order to explain we must look at the history of teacher salaries in North Carolina. The Democrats goal was to keep Salaries at the median for all the states. And they were prior to 2009.  However, budget issues caught up with the Democrats who controlled both the Governor’s office and the General Assembly. While in power a wage freeze was put into place for 2009-10 school year. For the next few years the Democrats controlled the Governor’s office but the Legislature was controlled by the Republicans. Salaries for all state employees continued to be frozen as the legislature had to address their obligation to repay Medicaid overruns to the tune of almost $2 billion. And they still owed the Feds about $2 Billion in borrowed funds for Unemployment benefits. With all this debt needing to be repaid teacher rankings for salary dropped significantly.

By 2013 we had a Republican Governor and Legislature. They addressed the largest increase in teacher pay in the nation between 2014 and 2015. Our ranking rose from 43rd to 42nd. A year later, they received another 2.2% raise with a small bonus. In 2016-17 teachers averaged 4.7%. This school year the raise was an average of 3.3%. The projected raise for next year, the second year of a two year budget, is 6.2%.

Employee benefit costs have also increased.  John Locke Foundation reports between 2011 and 2018, retirement contributions increased from $4,458 to $8,057 per teacher. Social Security contributions increased from $3,245 to $3,598.  The cost of provided health insurance increased $4,929 to $5,869 per employee and it is expected to further increase to $6,104 in the next school year.

Please understand, Teachers have a difficult job and need to be paid accordingly. However Education should not be a pawn in the election process. The NEA and even the News and Observer cite the fact our programs are deficient because of lack of per pupil spending.  Using NEA facts average teacher salaries in NC have jumped to $50,861 moving from 39th to 37th out of 50 states and District of Columbia.  The figures they cite do not include benefits or other variables. Locke reports when the NEA figures are adjusted for the cost of living in 2017, NC rankings move to 29th in the Nation.

So if we are aiming for the median salary, we are quickly approaching it. Why then the need for a rally?

However, the latest trend to prove insufficient funding is to cite per pupil costs. The latest information shows NC spending an average of $8687 per pupil. Now the complaint being surfaced is this per pupil expenditure is a reason our programs are not as effective. Looking at some facts we can see The District of Columbia spends $19,396 per pupil. New York State spends $21,206 per pupil. Maryland spends $14, 192 per pupil. If money were the answer, people would be fighting to get their children into Districts like, New York City, Baltimore or the District of Columbia. Keep in mind this per pupil expenditure reflects the cost of employees. The more they make the higher the expenditure. The NEA is more than aware of this.

I am not attacking the NEA as you need to understand they are like a Union. Their job is to protect their members and get the maximum benefits they can for those members. Their rally is part of doing their job. My biggest complaint about Public Sector Unions, and the NEA is effectively one, is they have the manpower and money to elect the people who set their salaries and benefits.

The Democrats want NEA and their membership to support them in the election to change the Legislature. They arrange a rally that disrupts school as we get close to finals, state exams, or AP Exams. It calls attention to a false narrative. The narrative they are pushing or implying is Republicans do not care about Education and Teachers. Their purpose is to effect voting patterns in November.

Teachers need to not fall for this political event. The General Assembly has great respect for what you do and is working hard to reimburse you for your expertise. Do not fall into the Democratic Trap. Stay in school and continue to improve the education of the students in you classes.