If Gov. Pat McCrory and his boyz in the General Assembly truly weren’t paying attention before, Saturday’s colossal protest march should awaken this clueless cabal.
A call put out by the North Carolina NAACP to stand up to regressive Republican policies was answered by the nearly 80,000 people who took part in the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) march in Raleigh. From Murphy to Manteo (and beyond), they came – to tell the power-brokers that it’s not OK to punish the poor and powerless, to belittle the work and sacrifices of hard-working teachers, to let kids suffer without health coverage. They were of every race, age, social and educational background and political affiliation.
“We are black, white, Latino, Native American,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the NC NAACP and convener of HKonJ.
“We are Democrat, Republican, Independent. We are people of all faiths, and people not of faith but who believe in a moral universe. We are natives and immigrants, business leaders and workers and unemployed, doctors and the uninsured, gay and straight, students and parents and retirees. We stand here – a quilt of many colors, faiths and creeds.”
Their message was loud enough, but did McCrory and company hear it? In the past, the governor and Republican leaders have been quick to dismiss the N.C. NAACP’s Moral Movement as some sort of fringe element – an isolated bunch of Hellraisers stomping their feet and throwing tantrums because the GOP gained control. Now, even the most conservative of the Republican Party must realize that the policies that sparked the movement have had an adverse effect on a growing cross-section of North Carolinians and that that “fringe” element is looking more and more mainstream.
We think they are getting the point. This week, McCrory attempted to act progressive (a feat that would require an Oscar-caliber performance on his part) by announcing a pay increase for starting teachers. The average starting pay for North Carolina teachers is $30,800. Under the plan, starting pay would increase by $2,200 next year and by another $2,000 the year after.
Increasing starting pay is a good step, but it does little for the teachers already in the trenches – the ones already reeling from the cuts and penny-pinching of this General Assembly and governor.
Needless to say, the governor’s plan impressed few. Pointing out that McCrory’s plan would only affect 34 percent of teachers statewide, the North Carolina School Boards Association threw cold water on it.
“We continue to lose dedicated teachers to our neighboring states because we refuse to invest the resources necessary to ensure teaching as a viable career path,” NCSBA Executive Director Dr. Ed Dunlap said in a statement. “The plan doesn’t include many of the things that school board members believe to be important.”
The N.C. Association of Educators said if McCrory is trying to make amends for all the education cuts made last legislative session, then he should try much harder.
“After an onslaught of education policies that were passed last summer with no warning and no debate, we are now presented with another policy that responds to the legitimate concerns of parents, students and teachers with a divisive half-measure.”
McCrory’s plan is emblematic of the state’s Republican leadership and, to some extent, lawmakers as a whole. Using the budget as matches, they set fire to the schoolhouse, and now that flames are everywhere, they provide just one bucket of water.