Hey, so you know how House Bill 2 has basically turned North Carolina's reputation into the smoldering ash of a blue-hot dumpster fire? Governor McCrory would like you to not think about that so much.
In a thinly veiled effort to save his re-election campaign and distract from the ongoing HB 2 debacle, McCrory made a big to-d o about his new education "priorities" last week. Standing in front of a couple of bored-looking teens at his alma mater, Ragsdale High School in Jamestown, McCrory called for a 5 percent teacher pay raise, which would increase the average teacher salary to more than $50,000, create a yearly bonus for teachers with more than twenty-four years of experience, and increase college funding.
In the politics biz, this is what you call a race to the center: the states's tax-cutting, spendthrift Republicans have taken heat for poor teacher pay and per-student spending, which is among the lowest in the nation. So the governor—buffeted by the HB 2 fallout, facing a stiff challenge in November, and desperate to appeal to moderates—would very much like to champion a piece of legislation that is not reactionary.
One small problem: the legislature—especially the very conservative state Senate—probably won't play along. Indeed, earlier this year, Secretary of Public Instruction June Atkinson, a Democrat, called for a 10 percent raise for teachers. But House Speaker Tim Moore promptly crapped on that idea, calling it "unrealistic" and saying he might go for 2 percent, but that's about it.
And, for the most part, the General Assembly's sizeable conservative bloc cares very little what McCrory wants.
"Based on everything we've seen in the past, Governor McCrory has very little power as far as the budget is concerned," says Progress NC communications director Logan Smith. "[Senate President Pro Tempore Phil] Berger is the most powerful person in the state. What he wants is going to happen."
Berger has a history of getting what he wants. In last year's budget, the House wanted a 2 percent raise for teachers. The Senate said no. So they ended up bumping rookie teachers from $33,000 to $35,000 and giving state workers a one-time bonus.
"There is a reason educator turnover rates are at historic levels," N.C. Association of Educators vice president Mark Jewell told the INDY in a statement. "The governor has a track record of signing whatever the legislature sends him, even if it's a budget that ends up making North Carolina the second worst for teachers in America."
But at least we're not talking about HB 2.