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Some of the nuttiest words I’ve typed in 12 years here

By Keith Larson
Special to the Observer

I have a big idea for North Carolina Republicans.

They want to give teachers a raise. They want to give them a raise because they know it’s laughable to suggest a starting statewide base salary of $30,800 is proper incentive to draw the best and brightest into 10-month-a-year combat with students, parents and administrators. They want to give teachers a raise because they know ranking 46th in the country in teacher pay puts you in the company of Mississippi and West Virginia, states about which unkind jokes are made.

Problem is, politics won’t allow Republicans to simply say, teachers should be paid “X” so we’re going to pay them “X”. They’ve got to play Let’s Make a Deal. They’ve got to get something from those lazy, lifer teachers if they’re going to give them more money – to save political face. So, trade your tenure, teachers, and you can have a raise. Or, they’ll trickle dollars out; here’s 10 bucks more a week, teachers, let’s see how you do.

House Republicans want to give teachers their raise by doubling the advertising budget for the so-called Education Lottery. Yes, I actually typed those words. They are some of the most downright nutty words to come my way in 12 years here but they are true. And you actually did just read them. If they are not some of the most downright nutty words you’ve ever read, then you’re reading really funny stuff.

Republicans opposed the lottery when it was created in 2005. They positioned it as a sleazy way for Mike Easley, Jim Black and the Democrats to grab millions more dollars for GuvCo. But they were the minority in Raleigh back then, Republicans, so when it became clear they couldn’t stop the lottery they tried to at least keep it from being too successful by making sure its advertising couldn’t be too enticing. Ads could describe the games but couldn’t promote playing them in the same way fast food restaurants can promote a sandwich such that you gotta-wanna-needa-getta-have one.

Democrats didn’t do much to fix this problem when they ran Raleigh, but Republicans have been in control since 2011. Being the party in charge in a state with just about the worst teacher pay in the country makes them look like knuckleheads or Neanderthals, neither of which are attractive to CEOs wanting to expand their companies. Republicans will now do anything to get the monkey of teacher pay off their backs, even cozying up to the same lottery they once reviled.

So here’s my big idea, Republicans: Buy teachers millions of lottery tickets. One-in-four of them will get more money, which is about how many you think deserve it. The dollars spent on tickets will simply recirculate back to GuvCo. And teachers can spend their summers scratching-off.

Which is what you’re telling them to do, anyway.

Keith Larson is the mid-morning host at WBT-AM.
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