Aim Higher NC is holding a press conference in Charlotte today to urge people to petition state officials for higher teacher pay. But the group itself remains a mystery.
The organization has logged more than 26,500 electronic signatures since organizing in response to a January op-ed piece by former N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt urging state lawmakers to get the state’s teacher pay up to the state average.
“Not talk about it, or vaguely promise it, but do it,” Hunt wrote. “Our hard-working teachers deserve it. Today their pay ranks 46 among the 50 states. They could make as much as $10,000 a year more just by moving to South Carolina, Virginia or Tennessee to teach.”
So who is Aim Higher? The web site provides no clue, saying only that it is “paid for by Aim Higher NC.”
Mecklenburg teachers Andrew Shimko and Jasmine Newsom, Union County teacher Dawn Moretz and Union County parent Jill Carilli are listed as speakers. (Carilli’s own teacher-pay petition on Change.org has logged almost 22,000 signatures. She seems to have moved to the area from Arizona last summer.)
Rob Black, an organizer for the group said he’s employed by Aim Higher, which is made up of teachers, parents and others, but he declined to say who’s footing the bills.
“Our funders have asked to remain anonymous,” he said. “You see what happens when people speak out. They often end up targeted for retribution.”
He wouldn’t be more specific about what kind of retribution he’s talking about. The N.C. Association of Educators has a page promoting the Aim Higher push, but Black said Aim Higher is not affiliated with NCAE.
Black is a longtime political operative generally working with labor and Democratic politics. And another Democratic-aligned group, Progress North Carolina, is also promoting the Aim Higher effort.
Pushing for better teacher pay strikes me as neither nefarious nor particularly risky. But “grassroots” groups that hide their financing make me wary.
Staff writer John Frank contributed to this report.