State House 50 Representative Graig Meyer said that teacher morale in our local school districts and across North Carolina is currently the lowest he has experienced during his career in public education. Teachers in the state have gone six years without a real pay raise, in addition to other setbacks.
“While the General Assembly talks about recruiting and retaining teachers, they have to remember there is a third ‘R.’ That is respecting teachers,” said Meyer, who is also the Director of Student Equity and Volunteer Services for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
He was appointed to the House 50 seat in October of last year. However, the General Assembly doesn’t reconvene for the short session until May 14, and the 2014 Primary is May 6, so he is currently on the campaign trail.
Meyer said that education is his most important platform issue.
Tuesday morning, he attended a teacher pay task force meeting at the General Assembly in Raleigh.
The major take-away from the discussion, Meyer explained, was that lawmakers are considering alternative teacher pay models that could be coupled with strong student performance in the classroom. He said that in theory it is a good idea, but state leaders have not devised a clear system to offer incentives state-wide.
Governor Pat McCrory announced a plan earlier this month to increase starting teachers’ salaries nearly 14 percent in the next two years, but no immediate increase was mentioned for teaching professionals already into their careers.
“We have heard the proposal that they would like to raise the pay for starting teachers so that every teacher in the state would make a minimum of $35,000, which is a step in the right direction,” Meyer said. “Unfortunately, we heard again this morning that they are not planning to give teachers an across-the-board raise.”
Meyer explained that the proposal states that new teachers’ pay would be fixed at the starting salary for approximately the first ten years of their career and that instructors with more than nine years of experience would not get a pay raise unless policies are changed.
North Carolina’s teachers are among the lowest-paid in the country, ranking 46th , and make less than instructors in each of the surrounding states. The beginning salary for a teacher in North Carolina with less than six years of experience is $30,800 for the 2013-2014 school year, according to the NC Department of Public Instruction.
Going into their sixth year, teachers currently get $420 added to the base salary. Meyer added that CHCCS and Durham Public Schools add salary supplements separate from the state.
Stagnant salaries are just one of the many issues that educators have said threaten the education system in North Carolina. In 2013, state lawmakers eliminated salary bonuses for teachers with advanced degrees and also nixed teacher tenure.
“I want to start to change the narrative about public education and remind people that North Carolina has always relied on its public education system to create opportunities for the next generation of North Carolinians. We need strong public schools in the state. This means we have to value the people who work in those schools with compensations, and valuing their time and expertise.”
Tuesday morning was only the first meeting of Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force. Legislators authorized the panel to make recommendations by mid-April, according to the Associated Press.http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/task-force-considers-nc-teacher-pay-incentives-rep-meyers-attendence/
CHAPEL HILL- North Carolinians continue to be widely displeased with the General Assembly, but those numbers could be changing, according to Public Policy Polling’s Jim Williams.
“State government, as a whole, is not viewed very well by North Carolinians,” says Williams. “Just 39 percent of voters say GOP control of government has been a good thing, compared to 50 percent who say it’s a bad thing.”
Williams says while Governor Pat McCrory’s popularity rating has risen by two points since September, only 39 percent of those polled approve of his leadership.
Though the majority of voters polled view Republicans negatively, the numbers have shifted slightly in their favor since the end of the legislative session. Democrats, who led on a generic ballot by a nine point margin in July, now lead by only two points.
Public Policy Polling also asked respondents how the court system should deal with those arrested during the Moral Monday protests. Williams says most feel the charges should be dropped.
“Fifty-one percent of voters think that those charges against the protesters should be dropped, compared to just 33 percent who think that they should be prosecuted,” says Williams. “That includes the majority of Democrats and independents, and even 29 percent of Republicans voters think those charges should be dropped.”
The survey polled 701 registered voters throughout North Carolina. You can find a link to the full results here.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/ppp-most-voters-still-unhappy-with-nc-gop/
CHAPEL HILL- Chapel Hill and Carrboro’s mayoral candidates are running unopposed this year, but they say the real challenges will come from state leaders in Raleigh.
Lydia Lavelle hopes to make the jump from the Carrboro Board of Aldermen to the mayor’s seat, and given that she’s the only candidate, it seems like an easy win. But Lavelle says the actions of the General Assembly are likely to make her job, and that of other local elected officials, much harder in the coming months and years.
“It is going to be a tremendous challenge,” says Lavelle. “Not only the policy and laws that are coming from the General Assembly, but also in terms of financial cutbacks we might get. We have got to be on our guard and be communicating with other towns and counties about this.”
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt agrees. As he anticipates his third term, he says reductions in funding from the state could be a major issue.
“It’s going to be a community-wide challenge and it is one that I don’t think is on everybody’s radar at this moment,” says Kleinschmidt. “I hope during this campaign folks will become more aware of these challenges and we can work to address them in this next term.”
Chapel Hill Transit and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system have already begun to wrestle with cuts to transportation and school budgets during this past budget season.
Lavelle worries the hands of local governments are being tied by lawmakers in the General Assembly in other ways as well.
“Not only the North Carolina General Assembly, but our Supreme Court seems to be seeking to curtail our authority to really do anything at the local level,” says Lavelle. “I think it is really important that we try to keep a gauge on the different laws that they are trying to pass, to try to speak up when some of the bills they’re debating can affect local government in a way that a lot of the General Assembly doesn’t understand, and that they really wouldn’t want their town and their constituents to be faced with.”
The legislative session just ended, and though the full impact of the new laws remains to be seen, there are at least two bright spots for the towns.
Kleinschmidt says Chapel Hill was recently granted the authority to pursue new public/private partnerships outside of the downtown area.
“Famously you know we engaged in a public/private partnership to create 140 West, but our downtown was the only area that we were authorized to do such agreements,” says Kleinschmidt. “Now we have the authority from the General Assembly to do these kinds of projects outside our downtown core.”
And thanks to a bill sponsored by Senator Ellie Kinnaird, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen now has the option of appointing a new member to fill a vacancy, instead of holding a special election.
Passage of Senate Bill 128 is especially relevant now, as Lavelle has two years left in her term on the board. When she’s sworn in as Carrboro’s new mayor in December, aldermen will likely begin the process of filling her seat by appointment.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/state-budget-cuts-pose-challenge-for-mayoral-candidates/
Photo by Rachel Nash
RALEIGH – For thirteen weeks, people have gathered in Raleigh to rally against the policies of the Republican-led General Assembly, as part of a movement that’s come to be called the Moral Monday protests. Since late April when the first 17 protesters were arrested, the number has grown to a final tally of 925. The legislature adjourned its tumultuous session last week, but that didn’t stop protesters.
In the largest crowd yet, they marched on the State Capitol Building in their final Moral Monday in Raleigh, shutting down streets as their message echoed across down town.
More than a thousand gathered on Fayetteville Street, facing the building where N.C. Governor McCrory conducts his business. A smaller group gathered at the State Capitol earlier in the day to demand a meeting with McCrory. Police kept the demonstration outside the building but said they would deliver the protesters’ letter to the governor.
In the past 12 Moral Mondays, the protesters have gone into the General Assembly, where arrests where made outside chamber doors. This time, the crowd gathered on the lawn of Halifax Mall and then marched in unison to their destination, chanting along the way.
Teachers from across the state came in droves, wearing red to represent public education. Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Teacher’s Association, was arrested at last week’s Moral Monday.
“Last week, the legislature passed a budget that will ultimately destroy public education in North Carolina,” Ellis said.
Ellis explained that this budget eliminates over 9,000 education positions, including teacher jobs, teacher’s assistants and education support personnel. It provides no raises for teachers and does away with a salary increase for those who earn master’s degrees. Perhaps the most controversial measure is the $20 million set aside for “opportunity scholarships,” which opponents have compared to a school voucher system.
UNC alum Rory Santaloci currently teaches in Efland and has attended many Moral Mondays. He said the budget, which McCrory signed last week, is an insult to teachers across the state.
“If the majority of our population is taught in public schools, a large portion of the budget should go to public schools as well. We’re talking about the future of our state and the future of our counties,” Santaloci said.
Santloci is going to grad school at NYU in the fall, but because of what has happened, he won’t be coming back to his home state.
“Before this law was passed, I was going to grad school with the hope of returning to North Carolina and getting a pay raise. I’m going to [grad] school in New York and the incentive to return and teach where I am from is no longer there,” Santaloci said.
UNC Alum Ashley Jones, who is in her third year of teaching, had plans to get her master’s degree this fall, but cancelled those plans.
“In the foreseeable future, I’ll always be paid as a first year teacher, and it is not very much. To know that it [teacher’s salary] won’t go up is really frustrating,” Jones said.
NAACP State Chapter President and protest leader Reverend William Barber said the Moral Monday protesters aren’t going anywhere just because the General Assembly has adjourned, exclaiming, “This state is our state!”
“We understand that we are not in some mere political movement. We’re not in some mere fight over 2014. We’re in a fight for the soul of this state, the soul of the South, and the soul of this nation. And when you are in a soul fight, you don’t give up easy,” Barber said.
Though this was the last Moral Monday in Raleigh, the NAACP will continue the rallies but move to different locations around the state. The next will be in Asheville on August 5, and there are plans to hold demonstrations in all 13 of North Carolina’s congressional districts.
“What would have divided us years ago has brought us together like never before. We know where we are. Anytime in the South, you see this many black folk, brown folk, white folk, gay folk and straight folk, and people of all faiths hugging each other, something is on the loose!” Barber said.
The first Moral Monday rallies were mostly made up of protesters from the Triangle area and members of the NAACP, but as the weeks progressed and the controversial legislation was unveiled, the crowds grew.
Paul Jones, a Clinical Professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, said, “This is my sixth visit here [to Moral Monday] to try to turn the hearts of the legislature back to the path of righteousness and caring, to save them from the path of sin which they have entered, and to bring happiness and fellowship back to North Carolina.”
The movement has captured national attention from media outlets such as the New York Times, MSNBC, CNN and Fox News, to name a few.
“I think it is obvious that this is gaining momentum and that the values that they are speaking to resonate with North Carolinians,” said Randy Voller, Mayor of Pittsboro and Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party.
For now, Mondays in downtown Raleigh will be a little more quiet until the legislature gets back to business.
To hear the radio version, click here:http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/protesters-march-in-epic-end-to-raleigh-moral-mondays/
Pictured: Protesters at 12th Moral Monday; Photo by Rachel Nash
RALEIGH – Protesters will march to the State Capitol Building for the 13th Moral Monday even though the N.C. General Assembly has adjourned for the summer. Lawmakers ended the session having passed many controversial measures, including sweeping changes to state election laws and tighter abortion regulations for providers.
In protest of “regressive policies” of the Republican-led legislature, 925 people have been arrested since the rallies began in late April.
The past twelve Moral Mondays have culminated inside the General Assembly. Because the building will be empty, the protesters are mobilizing this time around.
NAACP State Chapter President and movement leader Reverend William Barber said Moral Monday will continue across the state after this week . Throughout the month of August, local Moral Mondays will take place in select cities and communities, including one in Asheville called “Mountain Moral Monday.” On August 28, to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, the NAACP will hold events in each of the 13 congressional districts in North Carolina.
Monday’s event, deemed a “Mass Social Justice Interfaith Rally,” is happening at 5:00 p.m. on the lawn of Halifax Mall. At 5:30, protesters will set out for the State Capitol. The NAACP has not yet indicated plans for arrests to take place.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/13th-moral-monday-to-march-on-state-capitol-building/
Pictured: N.C. General Assembly
ORANGE COUNTY – Throughout this entire legislative session, critics of the General Assembly have been outspoken against its Republican leadership. We’ve shared the liberal perspective on the legislature, but it’s been difficult to get a conservative perspective in Orange County.
WCHL has reached out to Stephen Xavier, Chair of the Orange County Republican Party, several times.
Dave Carter, a Republican who challenged Senator Ellie Kinnaird in the 2012 election to represent the 23rd district, shares his thoughts as this controversial legislative session comes to end.
“They’ve [the General Assembly] been all over the road. They’ve done some things I would view as progressive, which I am not a fan of. I’m not a fan of the ultraconservative crazies either,” Carter says. “And I see the current legislature, like the last legislature, and the legislature for the last 12 years that I have been following, they are driving all over the road. Sometimes they pull the wheel left, and sometimes they open their eyes and they are going to the extreme right.”
Carter doesn’t consider himself a moderate, but leans more toward Libertarian ideals.
He says he gives this General Assembly a grade of a “C.”
“They talk up a good thing, but they get all carried away with minutia. They are really not doing the things that they said they would do.”
Others, including the Moral Monday protesters, would not have so gracious an estimation of the Legislature. Each week since late April, protesters, led by NAACP State Chapter President, Reverend William Barber, have gathered in Raleigh to rally against what they call “regressive policies.”
“The Moral Monday stuff seems very fabricated, like it is almost backed by corporate sponsors,” Carter says. “I kind of expect to see Reverend Barber walking around with a big sign on the back of his shoulder, like you’d see a football player, saying sponsored by whomever.”
More than 900 people have been arrested inside the General Assembly as part of the Moral Monday protests.
“It’s like ‘Go get arrested and we can say: Look, we have 80 people arrested!’ That’s not civil disobedience; it is proving it with quota kind of stuff,” Carter says.
Activists were outraged recently when tighter abortion regulations swept through the General Assembly with little public notice, tacked onto unrelated bills.
“I know that there was recent brouhaha over the abortion stuff,” he said. “I think it was kind of tricky for them [Republican lawmakers] to do what they did, using rules in their own special way. They followed the rules, but they did it in a tricky way, and I think they could have been a little bit more transparent on that.”
Carter, who remains active in the Orange County Republican Party, says he’s entertained the idea of running again, but nothing is definite at this point.
Pictured: Moral Monday Protest; photo by Rachel Nash
RALEIGH – The Senate backed sweeping changes in the election process Wednesday evening that will likely alter the way we vote in North Carolina. The bill proposes significant changes to the state’s current election laws and also requires photo I.D.’s at the polls.
House Bill 589 was revamped by Senate Republicans Tuesday to include provisions that go beyond a voter I.D. requirement. The new version of the bill shortens the early voting period in general elections from 17 to 10 days, prohibits counties from extending early voting hours on the Saturday before Election Day to accommodate crowds, eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting, and eliminate straight-ticket voting, among other provisions.
One form of identification that would not be accepted is student I.D.’s and some believe this is targeting the collegiate vote. Protesters, including UNC students, have been rallying and even arrested at the General Assembly this week, outraged because of this bill.
UNC Student Body President Christy Lambden says he is concerned about how these possible changes will affect his peers’ access to the polls.
“I’m disappointed to see the introduction of the Voter I.D. Bill, especially if a student I.D. is not counting a valid form of voter I.D,” Lambden says.
Reverend William Barber of the state NAACP says in a statement: “These policies will be the most race-based, regressive and unconstitutional attacks on voting rights of the citizens of North Carolina that we have seen since the implementation of Jim Crow laws…”
Backers of the bill say that photo identification will cut down on voting fraud, whereas opponents of the bill say it is a strike against the more liberal groups, like student voters.
“Anything that is putting a constraint on voting and making it harder for students to vote, as I think this will, I think means that student voice is not going to be heard and that is ultimately troubling for me as a student representative,” Lambden says.
The election law changes normally would have been subject to authorization under the Voting Rights Act, but the Supreme Court’s recent decision exempted North Carolina from federal review until a new process is created by Congress.
“I think the state legislature needs to focus on maximizing student participation in the election process and I think to do that, they need to make sure that students can vote as easily as possible,” Lamden says.
A final vote of concurrence is expected in the Senate on Thursday. If passed, it will then go back to the House for a final vote and finally head to the desk of Governor Pat McCrory.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/nc-election-process-likely-to-see-big-changes/
RALEIGH – You might see some changes in the way you vote in future elections, and some say these proposed changes are not for the better, calling it an attack on voter rights.
The Senate Rules Committee passed House Bill 589 Tuesday after two hours of debate, which has been in limbo since the House approved it several months ago. Now it is back and has been revamped to include provisions that go far beyond the initial controversial voter I.D.’s proposal.
Matt Hughes, Chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, says the new version of the bill will impact how North Carolinians vote on multiple levels.
“The long title of the Voter I.D. Bill is about restoring confidence in elections,” Hughes says. “Unfortunately, the actions of the legislature are not doing a lot for the confidence in our elected and political leaders in North Carolina. In fact, I believe it is diminishing that confidence significantly.”
In addition to legislation requiring specific photo identification, it proposes to shorten the two-and-a-half week early-voting period by a week and eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting, among other provisions.
“In 2008, I think the party that benefited the most from early voting was the Democrats. However, by the 2012 election, everyone, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, it doesn’t matter who you poll, they are supportive of it,” Hughes says. “They are supportive of expanding early voting. It’s convenient, it makes voting more accessible, and it really allows people to go in and vote at their convenience.”
About 57 percent of the votes cast in last fall’s election in North Carolina were done during early voting, WRAL reports.
“It’s really convenient to be able to go and early vote and possibly change or update your registration, or maybe register for the first time during the early voting period,” Hughes says. “And that’s another thing that is removed from this bill is that you will not be able to do the same-day registration that is currently allowed under the law.”
Hughes says he questions the motives behind this bill and feels that the legislature strategically waited for a ruling by the Supreme Court on the Voting Rights Act. The election law changes normally would have to be subject to authorization, but the Supreme Court’s decision exempted North Carolina from federal review until a new process is created by Congress.
“There are just a lot of bad ideas in this Voter I.D. Bill, which itself is just a terrible idea. I think it comes down to maneuvering the electorate in a way that continues to perpetuate the status quo.”
Some have criticized bringing this bill up during the final days of the legislative session, but Hughes says it is symptomatic of this General Assembly.
Voting rights groups planted plastic pink flamingos in the lawn outside the Legislative Building Tuesday morning to remind N.C. lawmakers that Florida reduced its early voting period in the 2012 election, cutting early voting from 14 to eight days. According to state officials, this led to six-hour lines on the final day of early voting, and an estimated 200,000 Florida voters gave up with out casting their ballots.
If the Senate passes this bill, it will then have to pass in the House, where many anticipate disagreement over certain provisions.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/nc-sen-committee-discusses-cuts-to-early-voting-voter-ids/
Photo by Rachel Nash: Michelle Johnson, of the Carrboro BoA, meditating in peaceful protest
RALEIGH – The 12th Moral Monday in Raleigh focused on voting rights in response to the proposed changes to state election laws, which many have said will harm voter rights. Seventy-three people were arrested, bringing the running total to 925 since the rallies began in late April.
“I think every citizen should be guaranteed the right to vote. Requiring an I.D. is not difficult for many of us, but it is for some. I don’t think it’s fair to suppress anybody,” said Chapel Hill resident Rif Riddick.
As this legislative session comes to a close, the N.C. NAACP said that won’t stop them from taking their protests across the state. Moral Monday convenes next week on Fayetteville Street for the march to the State Capitol Building. Throughout the month of August, local Moral Mondays will take place in select cities and communities across the state, including one in the works for Asheville, called “Mountain Moral Monday.” On August 28, to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, the NAACP will hold events in each of the 13 congressional districts in North Carolina.
It was likely the last time this legislative session that the Moral Monday crowd would gather inside the General Assembly, in protest of what they call the “regressive policies” of the Republican-led legislature.
State House leaders moved their Monday night session to 4 p.m., three hours earlier than normal, leaving the protesters in a mostly empty building. General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver announced that the building would be closing and said those who remained would be arrested. The protesters kept going nevertheless.
Before the event moved inside, Pastor Richard Edens of the United Church of Chapel Hill was one of more than a thousand rallying for voting rights on the lawn of Halifax Mall. Edens was arrested on July 1.
“With this country, with this state, with our community, it is supposed to be something that is expansive and inclusive. What we have seen with our legislature over this past year is something that has been exclusive and is narrowing its interests and keeping people out. Voting rights is just one thing where they are limiting who can participate,” Edens said.
Senate Republicans unveiled a new voter ID bill last week that would limit the forms of photo identification accepted at the polls. The new measure would require voters to show one of seven types of photo identification issued by the government, such as driver’s licenses, passports, non-driver I.D.s, and military or veteran cards. It’s more restrictive than the House version, as it would eliminate cards from UNC system colleges, state community colleges, local governments, private employers, and law enforcement agencies as acceptable forms of photo identification.
Matt Hughes, Chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, said he is worried about the negative impact this legislation might have on future elections.
“I think it is clear that this is being done to prevent students from being able to easily access the polls. I think that’s because the belief is that those are liberal voters, and they’ll be voting for Democrats and to me it is trying to play on an unleveled playing field,” Hughes said.
Hughes said he was also concerned about proposed legislation that would shrink the early voting period, end Sunday voting, and end same-day voter registration.
The election law changes normally would have been subject to authorization under the Voting Rights Act, but the Supreme Court’s recent decision exempted North Carolina from federal review until a new process is created by Congress.
Another issue against which the state NAACP is taking court action is the redistricting maps for North Carolina’s legislative and congressional seats drawn by Republicans in the Legislature. State Democrats and others challenged the redistricting, calling it racial gerrymandering. Earlier this month, though, state Superior Court judges rejected their arguments and upheld the legislative and congressional boundaries.
“I do believe that the judges who ruled on the redistricting case are really off base. The maps that were drawn do not respect county lines like they are supposed to. The districts have really been gerrymandered and they really have to be looked at and re-drawn,” Hughes said.
NAACP State Chapter President and Moral Monday leader Reverend William Barber announced that the civil rights group will appeal the court’s decision.
“This legislature has eviscerated past commendable policies and taken us in the wrong direction, harming low-income and disadvantaged people in so many different ways,” said Jim Kocher, a resident of Chapel Hill for 30 years.
View of Moral Monday from atop the General Assemblyhttp://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/12th-moral-monday-rallies-for-voter-rights/
Pictured: Moral Monday
CHAPEL HILL – We’ve heard from the outspoken Moral Monday protesters as they gather in Raleigh each week to rally against the policies of the Republican-led General Assembly. WCHL’s D.G. Martin spoke with Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce, two experts on opposite ends of the political spectrum, to get their take on the protests.
Together the two run a blog together called “Talking About Politics.” Wrenn, who’s a Republican, and Pearce, who’s a Democrat, met in 1984 during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Wrenn worked for Helms and Pearce worked for Hunt.
Wrenn said Moral Monday leader and NAACP State Chapter President Reverend William Barber has become the face of the Democratic Party in North Carolina.
“I don’t think Moral Monday has contributed any sort of sensible political debate. I don’t want to sound harsh, but William Barber is pure demagogue. This isn’t a debate, this is a political rant,” Wrenn said.
Wrenn said Barber has used the strategy of “out-howling” everyone to get his point across.
“The theory is that as that howl reaches through the ether and the internet and people hear somebody hollering, that’s helping them a lot politically. I’m sort of inclined to think that hearing that sort of hollering, you shut down; you just block it out,” Wrenn said.
Pearce however felt differently about Barber’s leadership.
“One man’s demagogue is another man’s leader with courage and conviction. At least he’s had the courage to stand up and say some things, and he has hit a responsive chord,” Pearce said.
Pearce said this mid-year swing in momentum is a positive sign for the state’s Democrats.
“There’s a mobilizing, energizing element to this. Remember in 2010 all the energy and protests were coming from the Tea Party and then we had a very Tea Party dominated election in 2010. I’m hoping this energy translates to next year,” Pierce said.
These comments were made during the recording of Who’s Talking with D.G. Martin. To hear more from Wrenn and Pearce, tune in for the full show Saturday and Sunday at 6:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 11:00 p.m. on 97.9 FM WCHL and Chapelboro.com.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/carter-wrenn-and-gary-pearce-weigh-in-on-moral-mondays/