Gov. Roy Cooper wants to raise average teacher pay to $55,000 in the next two years. Legislative Republicans, led by Senate leader Phil Berger, want to raise average teacher pay to $55,000 in the next two years.
Behold! Agreement on important policy between Democrats and Republicans! With such alignment, teachers no doubt will be getting pay raises taking them to an average of $55,000 over the next two years, right?
One would think so, but two things could still sink a plan that everyone wants: details and politics.
First, the politics.
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Though Cooper’s proposal Monday appears to fall very much in line with what Republican legislators want, Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore did not exactly embrace it.
Berger responded with a statement saying Cooper, who has been in office for weeks, had long opposed Republican efforts to raise teacher pay and that Cooper had “finally joined legislative efforts to undo the damage of years of Democratic teacher furloughs and teacher pay freezes.”
When the Observer editorial board asked Moore’s office on Tuesday what the key differences were between Cooper’s plan and Republicans’, communications director Joseph Kyzer said: “The key difference is that Cooper is talking about raising teacher pay, and Republicans have proven accomplishments and results on the issue. Gov. Cooper’s plan is being led by a budget director who cut teacher pay last time he had the job.” Republicans, he said, do not want to “go back to the days of cutting teacher pay like Roy Cooper’s budget director has done.”
That didn’t answer the question, and it doesn’t suggest a deep desire to work together to help teachers. Why not truly welcome Cooper’s proposal and dig into making a raise happen?
Perhaps Berger and Moore are merely throwing red meat to their caucuses while working assiduously with Cooper behind the scenes. If the goal is raising teacher pay more than it is scoring points, then they should be doing just that.
The other potential obstacle: Details, and here there is room for legitimate disagreement. Cooper and Republicans have yet to offer many specifics of their plans. Who will get what raises? How will raises for the longest-serving teachers compare with those for teachers early in their careers? Will all teachers get raises every year, or will they take steps up and then plateau for years at a time? Will raises be merit-based, and how will that be measured? How will they be paid for? Will they require tax hikes? An end to tax cuts? Will they come at the expense of other investments in the classroom, such as for teacher assistants, textbooks and other needs? (They shouldn’t.)
All of these and others represent potential snags, and understandably so. But they still are just details, and if both Cooper and legislators are sincere about wanting to get North Carolina teacher pay to the national average, they will collaborate to work through such snags.
Anything less and teachers – and their students – will become victims of politics yet again.