Morning Memo: Teachers not enamored with GOP pay plan

Posted by John Frank on February 11, 2014 

Republicans are showing a united front on a proposal to increase teacher pay. But the reaction from teachers is mixed.

Even a teacher at Ragsdale High School, where Gov. Pat McCrory, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and GOP legislative leaders announced the deal, isn’t impressed.

After McCrory’s presentation, Katie McNeill, an English teacher at Ragsdale, said the proposal was “a good start,” but she worried that it doesn’t address pay for long-term teachers. “You’ve got a lot of veteran teachers who are in it now, who care about it now, and they’re going to see this pay increase and wonder whether it’s ever going to come to them,” said McNeill, who is in her seventh year as a teacher.

As for former Gov. Jim Hunt, who is pushing the issue, he wants to see them go further.

Hunt suggested raising just the base pay wouldn’t be good enough. “I think we need to have a major pay increase in North Carolina, and we need to get to the national average in the next four years,” Hunt said.

Making starting salaries competitive should be part of a larger plan that will give all good teachers a major pay increase, Hunt said. “Not a tiny one,” he said. “A major one.”

*** Get much more on the GOP’s big election year plan and more North Carolina politics below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory puts back on his barn jacket and boots Tuesday for a 10:15 a.m. press conference about the winter weather hitting the state this week. It’s his only public event on the calendar.

At the legislature, the joint legislative oversight committee on Health and Human Services convenes at 9 a.m. and Revenue Laws is at 9:30 a.m. The State Ethics Commission meets at 10 a.m.

And in a Wake County courtroom, the civil trial against U.S. Senate candidate Greg Brannon continues.

TODAY’S BIG STORY -- ALDONA WOS, DHHS ONCE AGAIN ON THE HOT SEAT: In August, the state’s Medicaid director asked the federal government for permission to postpone for three months the process for renewing Medicaid recipients’ coverage.

The federal government gave its approval, but the N.C. General Assembly didn’t. When lawmakers passed the state budget in July, they required the Department of Health and Human Services to get legislative approval for federal waivers.

Rep. Nelson Dollar, the top budget writer in the state House, said he only learned about the waiver last month. While he’s concerned that the Department of Health and Human Services failed to consult the legislature as the law required, Dollar said he’s more concerned about the cost of the waiver.

“It’s very substantial,” Dollar said. “It could be in excess of $10 million.” Some estimates peg the cost as high as $40 million.

The waiver is one of several problems to be discussed Tuesday at a legislative oversight hearing of the department. The department has run into repeated problems with its new Medicaid claims processing system. Read more here.

GOP SHOWS UNITED FRONT ON TEACHER PAY: The proposal Gov. Pat McCrory announced Monday to raise the base pay for early-career teachers was met with praise and immediate questions about raises for those with more experience.

Under the plan, teachers with up to 10 years in the classroom – about 42,000 of them – would see their pay rise to $35,000 by the 2015-16 school year. The raises would cost the state about $200 million over two years.

The state’s beginning teachers are among the lowest-paid in the nation, and the current $30,800 beginning salary is not competitive with surrounding states. Read more here.

FORUM FOCUSES ON EDUCATION: Hundreds of educators and policymakers gathered in Raleigh on Monday to explore how to recruit, develop and keep the best teachers in North Carolina’s classrooms.

N.C. State University’s Emerging Issues Forum focuses on teachers and how their work is inextricably linked to the state’s success and economic future. The two-day forum comes at a time when changes in policies and learning standards have put stress on teachers, prompting worry about turnover in the profession. Read more here.

ANOTHER TAKE: Saying the amount of testing in North Carolina “borders on the absolute ridiculous,” Gov. Pat McCrory called Monday for a scale-back as part of a push to recruit and keep teachers. Read more here.

WHAT HAPPENED TO DAN FOREST’S PLAN? Lt. Gov. Dan Forest said he would debut his own plan to increase teacher pay -- make them the highest paid in the nation, even. But January passed without a peep.

Forest stood with Republican leaders Monday in supporting an salary bump for new teachers. But what about his broader plan? “Our plan for raising teacher salaries is multi-faceted and will be unveiled in pieces over the next few months,” his spokeswoman Kami Mueller said in an email. “(Monday’s) announcement was the first step, in that we addressed entry level base pay. We have heard over and over again from people in the teaching profession that we lose too many teachers in the first part of their careers due to the base pay, so we started there. There will be more announcements in the near future. We are working with the Governor and the legislative leaders in a united fashion on these ideas. Stay tuned.”

#NCSEN ---

TILLIS GETS MORE ESTABLISHMENT SUPPORT: Cornelius Republican Thom Tillis has added 10 more U.S. senators and more than a dozen state lawmakers to the list of donors to his Senate campaign, according to a new campaign report.

In the last quarter of 2013, Tillis got money from the PACs of 10 GOP senators, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah and John Cornyn of Texas.

It was once unusual for party leaders to take sides in a primary, particularly one without an incumbent. But this year, GOP leaders have supported candidates they believe have a better chance of winning in November, often at the cost of alienating tea party supporters.

Brannon spokesman Reilly O’Neal called Tillis’ latest report “a who’s who of D.C. insiders who sell out conservatives on a regular basis.” Read more here.

WILL OBAMA RAISE MONEY FOR HAGAN IN NORTH CAROLINA? The answer is unclear. From Politico: The White House and Senate Democrats are preparing an extensive midterm campaign strategy built around one unavoidable fact: Hardly any candidates in the most competitive states want President Barack Obama anywhere near them.

The president has committed to half a dozen Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraisers — so far — for 2014, with the first two expected in the coming weeks in New York and the Washington suburbs, Democratic sources tell POLITICO. He’s also planning to attend fundraisers for the Senate Majority PAC.

Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton will hit the road instead. Democrats hope Hillary Clinton — whose office declined comment — will campaign as well. Read more here.

THE MONEY RACE KEEPS PUNDITS IN KAY’S CORNER: The Washington Post’s Fix blog regularly ranks U.S. Senate races by which are most likely to flip parties (a No. 1 ranking is most likely).

North Carolina right now? No. 8, even down a notch from No. 7. The reason? Money. From the write-up: “North Carolina (D): Amid the troubled rollout of Obamacare, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan's image took a hit. It doesn't help her that Republican groups have been slamming her over the airwaves. But Republican front-runner Thom Tillis had a disappointing fundraising period, even as he got a hand from some top figures in the party. Hagan, for her part, put up a big $2 million quarter. (Previous ranking: 7)” See the full list here.

CAN IT GET WORSE? -- MORE TUMULT FOR DEMOCRATS: The party’s communications director resigns and a potential candidate for executive director has a checkered past.

THE NEW DEM MANTRA? “I think if you have never gotten into trouble you haven’t done a thing.” Read more here.

QUICK HITS ---

Coastal residents defy NC legislature on ferry tolls. Read more here.

How Republicans can win the Senate in 2014. Read more here.

The lonely death of Richard Burr’s Republican health care plan. Read more here.

The company hired to fix healthcare.gov stumbled -- including North Carolina. Read more here.

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