Editorials

GOP makes hollow attack against NCAE president

mhankerson@newsobserver.com

Republican lawmakers have no credibility when it comes to public education or those who help to provide and support it. So the attacks on the president of the N.C. Association of Educators for being on “educational leave” and continuing to build his pension are hollow. Sen. Chad Barefoot of Wake County is one of those saying Rodney Ellis shouldn’t be allowed to work for NCAE, which reimburses his Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school district for his salary and benefits, and still build his retirement.

But Barefoot and others who are after Ellis have made something of a cause of attacking public school teachers, so their motives are suspect.

In other similar arrangements, advocates for private groups get to participate in the excellent state retirement plan: Employees of the N.C. League of Municipalities and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners also are members of the system. And let us not forget that Barefoot and other lawmakers also have a nice little pension set-up for part-time work.

State Rep. Larry Hall, a Democrat, has a better idea. Rather than make teachers, and Ellis, the focus, why not review all leave and benefit policies? Maybe, for example, it’s a stretch to have the League or the county commissioners’ association in the state plan.

If such a study happens, watch how quickly Barefoot and others are encouraged to back off when they’re up against strong lobbying groups.

The NCAE is a perfectly legitimate group, hardly an old-fashioned labor union, and it does good work. But because some in the group dared to criticize lawmakers for their funding cuts to public education, GOP leaders are out for payback.

That was never more transparent than in one of the most embarrassing (or it should have been) incidents since Republicans took over the General Assembly in 2011. Republicans passed a measure to end automatic payroll deduction for dues for the NCAE for those who wanted it. Then-Speaker Thom Tillis, now a U.S. senator, was heard to say in a private GOP caucus meeting that the action would give the NCAE and its members “a little taste of what’s to come.” Such a petty and vindictive statement from a legislative leader was a clear signal that Republicans are out to get public school officials and teachers. The law was overturned.

Thus, Barefoot’s pronouncements of how upset he is about the Ellis arrangement and others ring hollow. He’s part of a party out to get teachers, and it’s as simple as that. He and other members of the GOP have no legitimate case to make on this issue. We know how they feel. We know they probably want to give Ellis and other teachers another “little taste.”

  Comments