Democrats are better for teachers and schools

by | May 14, 2018 | Editor's Blog, Education, North Carolina | 11 comments

On Wednesday, educators will greet legislators returning for the short session with a massive rally. Organizers say the protest might exceed 10,000 teachers and school districts across the state are canceling classes. North Carolina teachers are following in the footsteps of their colleagues in Arizona, Oklahoma and West Virginia.

Republicans and some columnists warn that teachers might face a backlash from parents who will struggle to find child care when schools are closed. They also point out that teachers have received substantial raises in recent years. This year, the GOP proposes an average 6.5% raise for teachers. They argue that teachers shouldn’t complain and that they’re faring better than they did under Democrats who froze their pay during the Great Recession.

They may be right about a political backlash. Republicans are making the rally about teacher pay and in poor counties where teachers make up a substantial part of the middle class, asking for a raise when everybody else is struggling looks a bit politically tone deaf. Some people could turn on the teachers.

But the rally is not just about teacher pay. It’s about the conditions of our public schools. Still, schools need to attract and keep good teachers. Teacher pay does lag behind the rest of the country and, despite GOP claims, recent pay increases haven’t kept up.

Under Democrats, starting in the 1990s, teachers saw their salaries rise dramatically, bringing North Carolina to the national average. According to a chart from the Department of Public Instruction, pay increases under Republicans have averaged 2.5% per year during the first six years they were in control. In the six year period before they took power, Democrats gave teachers an average 3.5% raise and that’s including the two year salary freeze during the recession. If you consider the 10 year average before the recession, Democrats gave teachers an average raise of 4.4%.

Again, it’s not just pay. Republicans cut per pupil spending dramatically. They eliminated teacher assistants and have underfunded support staff, making an already challenging job even more difficult. Teachers routinely use their own money to supplement the lacking supplies in their classrooms. PTA groups that used to provide extras now raise money for necessities.

In addition, we’re seriously lacking school nurses, psychologists and social workers. We all recognize that early intervention can prevent destructive behavior but the legislature hasn’t funded positions that could stop tragedies before they occur. The right support doesn’t just help the students who are in trouble; it helps all students by minimizing disruptions.

Personally, I’m not much of a protest or rally guy. I don’t believe they’ve had much impact on legislation despite five years of Moral Mondays. They’ve had a marginal impact on turnout by increasing activists but they’ve probably done almost as much to motivate activists on the other side, too. The rally on Wednesday will probably do more to make educators feel good than influence any policy decisions. Still, teachers know a lot more about what’s needed and lacking in classrooms than a bunch of ideological politicians.

That said, compared to Democrats, Republicans have been bad for our public schools and they’ve certainly made teaching more difficult than at almost any time in the past 20 years. They’ve reduced support staff, failed to provide adequate incentives to attract or keep teachers and left classrooms lacking in necessary supplies. Instead, they’ve entered into an ideological and political experiment of “school choice” after falsely claiming that our public schools were failing. That’s not good for our teachers, our schools or our kids.


  1. Scott Day

    Growth of objectivism in the Gopsay coupled with neo feudalist ideologies like religions twisted in translations & over time into one dimensional truths that depend on belief & not fact are represented in socialization institutions practices. People I know that have left the elementary & high schools put the way students & administrators treated them before the money.
    Gopsay don’t believe in taxes, & I know anarchy leads to isolation & despair, so the libertarians & the Gopsay brought us a culture & society where guns are good company. Youth looks for something to believe in.
    When you have nothing but the life of the mind you are old or innocent. Learning to live well increases the happiness factors.
    The Gopsay in NC recently left finite resources paid by citizens to the Feds with the Feds with Healthcare that costs so much no one can afford it out of pocket anymore and who are you kidding?
    You have to have standards & goals & fund them as it is second only to defense if not making defense impossible if not done first.
    Per capita spending throughout the Nation through all counties has to be made equal from Fed money & State money one that is Finite & the other that is infinite.
    Democrats or, simply whomever knows what is really required from buildings to books have to demand money in a system paying out of both treasuries.
    Within the US for the people of the US because the US controls its currency it can create all the necessary funds, whereas this is not the case for the State Treasuries that operate from taxes collected.
    Because the State Treasuries are finite & there are state needs constantly existing it is best to pay from taxes over bonds as bonds are loans & long term loans mean vulnerabilities.
    Cost what it costs & takes what it takes. NC can get what it needs if it knows who and how to ask.
    & Peer to Peer learning is very effective is all I got to say right now.

  2. Ebrun

    In 2011, NC public school teachers’ salaries ranked 45th among the 50 states and DC. As of 2018, NC teachers, salaries ranked 35th among the states. When comparable cost-of-living data among the states is taken into account, NC ranks 29th.

    This is not “lagging behind”, it’s catching up. And per pupil spending has NOT declined. In 2011, it was $ 8572 while in 2016 it had risen to $8955 .

  3. Gailya Paliga

    The other side of not funding public education is the NCGA’s decisions to give tens of millions of dollars away to private schools via the “Opportunity Scholarship” program. The amount they are giving away grows by literally $10 million a year for the next 10 years, and there is basically no accountability. A WUNC article reports that “Voucher schools receiving at least $300,000 submit some basic financial information to the state. [Religious private school] Bal-Perazim is one of many schools exempt from that requirement. Last year the cut-off applied to 10 out of 399 schools. ”

    In 2018, the state is setting aside $45 million for vouchers. In 2028, the state could be paying about $145 million for the voucher if the NCGA doesn’t stop the bleeding.

    More on vouchers at, 5/14/18

  4. Troy

    Privatization. The pure and simple policy that Republicans love to implement. It brings less government oversight, it cuts employees and thus payrolls, it enables them to exit the business of funding retirement, pension, and healthcare plans for those who make it to retirement. It enables their cronies to grow fat and sassy at the expense of the institution and what it is trying to provide. What’s not to love?

    It’s an incremental process too. It starts small and weaves it’s way through the various processes. Setting up for failure is the term I believe I’ve seen expressed here before. You cut here, you cut there, you bring in more regulation and unfunded mandates, and then you provide options. Of course, those options have all the appearance of being viable alternatives to the status quo. People starting migrating away. You start diverting money and chasm grows ever larger. You alienate your professional staff and make it damn near impossible for them to subsist.

    There is no justice, no opportunity, and no equality without education. It is the foundation upon which all of our principles of Democracy are based. Teacher salaries have stagnated for a long time now (along with other state employees, but that’s another story). All things being equal, you work for who pays you.
    Right now with unemployment low, it should be a seller’s market. But the reality is, we see in education what we have seen trend for at the last decade. Salaries are stagnant across the board. Oh, corporate profits and shareholder dividends are up. Just not wages. Another goal, real or imagined of Republican largess to themselves. Less for you means more for me.

    Education is grossly underfunded despite the magic mushroom mathematics that purports an increase in per pupil spending, no one seems to quite know where that money is going. These problems and more including bus driver shortages across the state, are all snippets of a larger agenda; privatize schools.

    They block fund schools and they no longer have worries about performance, equality in education, employees, benefits, increasing costs, or a host of other things that equate to government providing for its citizens. How right am I with all this?

    I might not be precise, but I’m not that far off the mark either. This is not a short term goal or strategy. It’s been in the making since Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. North Carolina was just able to hold out longer than the majority of States under the Mason-Dixon line. That single fact was washed out to sea with the elections of 2010. If you look at the historical context of all this, you too will begin to see the timeline as it benchmarks each step moving toward that final goal.

    Ya’ll think about it.

    • Ebrun

      Opportunity Scholarship grants are not given to private schools. The funds are granted to parents or guardians of eligible students who are selected to participate. The students’ families then select the private school of their choice.

      This is the same principle that is used in many low income assistance programs. For example, Food stamps are not given to grocers. The recipients or beneficiaries of the food stamp program are low income families or individuals who then decide which grocery store they will patronize.

    • Michael


      I think your remarks are spot-on. What remains to be seen is the end game to all of this, and that rests in the hands of voters. if this state does not make a marked change in the make-up of the legislature and bring an end to Republican “leadership”, then we as teachers need to take a hard look at those we serve. It’s an easy thing to say that our educational crisis is brought about by politicians, but these people are elected to their positions, not appointed. That means that Mr. and Mrs. North Carolina have to take responsibility for the path we take from here on out. If they choose not to support change in the actions that have been undertaken by Republicans over the past ten years, then I advocate an approach that I have been instituting for some time: actively dissuading my students from entering into the teaching profession. If North Carolina can not and will not support public education, then it should receive exactly what it deserves – mediocrity and incompetence. That is the price tag that any state should pay for apathy and shortsightedness. As veteran teachers head out the door, it should be our last act of defiance if November still sees this state dominated by Republican control.

  5. WNC teacher

    Be extremely skeptical about any NC pol – but especially Repubs – bragging about %-raise they are giving teachers. Teachers get an automatic raise year based on moving up a year on the experience ladder. These plans ALWAYS claim credit for the experience increases that would’ve happened anyway as part of the “raise” they are giving – I’ve never seen it not happen. The only valid comparison is what does a teacher with X years of experience make now compared to what a teacher with X years of experience made in the past.
    That inflates the practical effect by 1-2% a year, and becomes fairly significant if anyone is talking about a 3-5 year plan. This is on top of needing ~2% a year to keep up with inflation. The first 3-4% of any annual raise announced are just keeping the standard of living constant for teachers.

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