Editorial: Legislature - Stingy with teachers and state workers, generous with fat cats
Posted July 7
A CBC Editorial: Friday, July 7, 2017; Editorial # 8183
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
North Carolina public school teachers at the top of the pay scale -- those with the most experience -- are getting miniscule pay raises if anything at all. Local school administrators and board members around the state are alarmed and complain that experienced teachers are leaving classrooms at increasing rates.
Many of those experienced teachers are opting for early retirement. More significantly, particularly in school districts near South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, veteran teachers are leaving to take better paying classroom posts in neighboring states.
Salaries for North Carolina government workers – from agency bureaucrats to university professors -- are mostly stagnant even as competition for workers in skilled posts and academic specialties becomes more intense. Workers are paying more for fringe benefits like health coverage while retirement benefits are curtailed for future workers.
Stingy raises and shrinking benefits in the new state budget amount to an assault on state workers that threatens the delivery of basic public services and the ability of school children to learn. If not significantly addressed soon, the quality of life in North Carolina will suffer.
The General Assembly excessively bulked up a “rainy day” fund and lavished tax breaks on corporations and the wealthy. Those same legislators then feign that a scarcity of resources prevents them from providing deserved and realistic pay increases and reasonable benefits for teachers, school administrators and state workers.
For political leaders who often offer up a mantra of running government like a business, they behave like people seeking to run the business of state government into the ground.
Salaries of the state’s public school teachers continue to lag the rest of the nation and the raises offered up do little to improve that position.
For years many of the best and brightest would opt for public service in state government jobs, trading off higher pay in the private sector for the promise of a defined pension and health coverage upon retirement – not to mention a strong sense of duty toward public service.
Years of failing to provide cost-of-living increases for pensions and now eliminating the health insurance retirement benefit for state workers hired after 2020 is taking a toll.
“Retirement benefits are the cornerstone to recruitment and retention of good employees and it has been for many, many years,” Richard Rogers, executive director of the N.C. Retired Government Employees’ Association, told N.C. Health News. That’s no startling revelation.
If our legislative leaders looked to really run North Carolina like a successful business they’d be investing in the state’s employees, teachers and school administrators; providing a workplace that offers opportunities to succeed; and truly believing in the institution they run.
The evidence is quite the contrary: worker pay and benefits are short-changed and public service is denigrated amid a mantra that “government is the problem.”
Legislative leaders need to value, not denigrate, the people hired to serve our citizens.
The budget enacted does just the opposite. It overlooks and discourages the best and brightest to work for the state and lead our public school classrooms. By default it will be a magnet for the mediocre and dull.
North Carolinians deserves better and voters must demand more.