Friday marked 59 days since Gov. Roy Cooper and Democratic leaders presented a compromise budget, which proposes an 8.5% pay raise for our teachers over two years compared to the GOP conference budget which proposes just a 3.8% raise over a two-year span. The governor’s compromise would also close the health care coverage gap, cut taxes for North Carolinians, and guarantee school construction funding, while balancing the budget and saving money in the state’s rainy day fund.
Instead of negotiating with the governor to pass a budget that puts North Carolina teachers and administrators on the path to fairer salaries and students on the path to academic success, the GOP would rather pass a series of “mini budgets” and drag out the fight until December or longer.
Republicans hope that their “mini budget” scheme will force Democrats and Cooper to support inadequate teacher pay or risk educators receiving no raises or step increases at all. But make no mistake: these “mini budgets” are just another attempt by legislative Republicans to force through a budget that fails our teachers. For years, we have seen too many good teachers leave the state for better pay and more respect. And a paltry 1.9% raise each year over the next two years will cause North Carolina to fall further behind other states in the Southeast and across the country.
Several amendments were submitted by Democrats, that would include “non-certified staff,” teachers with less than 15 years of experience, and the $15 an hour minimum wage for those employees left out of last years’ increase. Republicans refused to consider those amendments and pulled the bill from the calendar.
The last week in August, teachers in Wayne County and in school districts across the state went back to the classroom. They’re doing their jobs. It is past time that Republicans in the legislature do theirs and pay North Carolina teachers what they deserve.
State Rep. Raymond E. Smith Jr., a Democrat, represents District 21 in Sampson and Wayne counties.