Trying to keep up with three plans for teacher raises, vouchers, charter schools and other education issues before the General Assembly is enough to make anyone's head spin. Bill Anderson of MeckEd pointed me toward a comparison sheet on the Senate, House and governor's plans prepared by Public Schools First NC.
The group has an agenda -- it supports more money for traditional public schools and opposes shifting money to charters and private schools -- but the reporting strikes me as factual and it's the best at-a-glance synopsis I've seen. Things can change every time the legislature convenes, so check in on the legislative updates page for fresh reports.
It's not as easy to read, but here's the General Assembly's comparison (it goes beyond the education items, which are at the top). Feel free to share links to updates from other groups.
|Berger with protesters|
Meanwhile, last week's conversation between Moral Monday education protesters and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger didn't produce any lasting harmony. Although no one was arrested then, the state NAACP filed suit later that week to challenge the new rules governing protests in the Legislative Building. They won an injunction from Superior Court Judge Carl Fox, who said the rules against making noise and creating a disturbance are so vague they could get groups of visiting schoolchildren in trouble. This week's protest, which focused on labor issues, was a noisier event that led to 20 arrests, the (Raleigh) News & Observer reports.
Berger's office says the Republican majority is just trying to "liberalize and clarify archaic and confusing building rules" adopted by Democrats in decades past.
“For years we’ve heard feedback that the 30-year-old building rules implemented by previous Democrat leaders were confusing and restrictive,” the Rockingham Republican said in a press statement. “We responded to those concerns, and I am baffled why (state NAACP president William) Barber is now trying to turn back the progress we made in increasing building access and free speech.”
Berger had told the group that the Moral Monday agenda would cost up to $7 billion and require a corporate tax hike of 50 percent, up from the current 6 percent. This week the Forward Together Moral Monday Movement countered with an analysis by the progressive N.C. Policy Watch saying Berger's analysis contained "false or exaggerated" premises. That analysis contends that the Moral Monday agenda is revenue neutral -- that is, it wouldn't require huge tax hikes -- and might even produce new income for the state.
Meanwhile, a Forbes article circulated by Berger's staff bumped up the rhetoric with a headline saying "North Carolina Progressives Demand Billions in Higher Taxes, 80 Percent Corporate Tax" (that's Berger's 50 percent estimate plus the federal corporate income tax, the article says).
The Raleigh-based Civitas Institute boosted the cost estimate for the Moral Monday agenda to $10 billion -- and promptly followed up with a fund-raising letter. "The Left wants to take your money ... We, on the other hand, ask our friends to voluntarily support us so that we can help regain and preserve the freedoms that are our birthright," says the letter from institute President Francis De Luca.
Someone will ask why the Observer doesn't have reporters delving in to sort out these conflicting claims. The answer: It's all an exercise in rhetoric. If the General Assembly were seriously considering this spending program, it would be vital to know what it would cost and how it would be paid for. But no one's really pushing this plan. Work on the real budget proposals continues hot and heavy -- and my colleagues covering the legislature are more than busy trying to keep up with that.
Let's end with some literal political theater: "Moral Mondays, the Musical!" It's a production of Will Rice, identified by WRAL as a left-leaning communications consultant. It's set to "Monday, Monday" and features some Daily Show-style interviews with protesters.