On Tuesday, after state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and Senate education co-chairs Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph) and Sen. Dan Soucek (R-Watauga) unveiled their “Excellent Public Schools” bill, Berger was asked about Mayor Pat McCrory’s budget that will be released today. His answer should keep the tongues wagging in the “who’s in charge” debate pitting the new Republican governor against the GOP power-shakers moving the legislature – Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis.
He’s “interested” in any “suggestions” that Gov. McCrory will make, he said. Suggestions? Ummm. Berger also said he was particularly interested to hear “what he (McCrory) will do with Medicaid.”
He’s got some liberal company in wondering about that. Chris Fitzsimon writing on an N.C. Policy Watch blog Tuesday pondered of McCrory’s budget reveal: “Will the misinformation and attacks on Medicaid continue? McCrory continues to draw criticism for his decision not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to provide health care coverage to more than 500,000 low-income adults.
His response has been to claim that Medicaid is broken even though much of the overspending cited in a recent audit was the result of unrealistic cost savings included in the budgets passed by the General Assembly in the last two years even after lawmakers were told the savings were impossible to achieve.”
Fitzsimon also wondered what McCrory would say about education, noting that “a bizarre music video press advisory released by McCrory’s office Tuesday included clips from McCrory talking about his commitment to education. But recent reports have ranked North Carolina 48th in the country in per pupil expenditures and 46th in teacher pay with starting teachers working 14 years to earn $40,000.”
That brings us back to Berger and company, and their education bill. Senate Bill 361 includes what the lawmakers dub as “efforts to strengthen student literacy, improve graduation rates, increase accountability in the classroom, reward effective teachers and give parents tools to make better informed decisions about their children’s education.” But it fails to tackle at all the recent news about the state long-ranking on teacher pay.
The legislators said the pay scale will remain similar to how it is now but the bill calls for bonuses or salary supplements “for teachers who perform above and beyond.”
The bill also calls for hiring teachers on contracts of one year up to four years. It also reiterates an intent to go to a “pay for excellence” or merit pay system as soon as a “robust evaluation instrument and process that accurately asseses and evaluates the effectiveness of teachers, especially in the area of student growth,” is developed. When will that be? “DPI (the Department of Public Instruction) is working on it,” was the reply.