Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Protesters, Berger school each other

An hour's conversation between Senate leader Phil Berger and 15 Moral Monday protesters didn't bridge the essential gap between them:  The protesters want increased spending for public education to trump tax cuts for the wealthy.  Berger says those tax cuts aren't negotiable.

But the political theater on both sides was a fascinating lesson for me.

Hundreds gathered in Raleigh for an event touted on social media as #SchooltheNCGA.  Based on a little more than a year's experience with such protests,  organizers expected a chance to lecture members of the General Assembly without anyone showing up to talk back.

They had their points lined up:  Republican leaders are following an ALEC agenda that benefits the wealthy at the expense of public education.  The talk of big raises for teachers is merely a Trojan horse,  offered in hopes of dividing educator supporters and enticing teachers to give up job protections that allow them to speak up.

The Moral Monday organizers had some zingers ready.   The Rev. William Barber,  president of the N.C. NAACP, called on Berger,  House Speaker Thom Tillis and Gov. Pat McCrory to  "stop being political extremists and be good Republicans.  I'm not asking them to be Democrats,"  just  "good Lincoln Republicans."

Author and historian Timothy Tyson said Republican leaders want to shift public money to private education through vouchers:  "They want the world with a fence around it and they'd like you to pay for the fence."  He added that  "perhaps the worst indictment of public schools is that a number of the political extremists in the General Assembly attended them."

After more than an hour in the hot sun,  the crowd lined up,  children in front,  and marched toward the Legislative Building.

Some went to Berger's office,  where they demanded a meeting and conducted a "teach-in" while they waited.  It was understood that if Berger didn't show up and the building closed,  they'd be arrested.  The Senate convened at 7,  and the protesters had packed bag lunches and prepared for a long haul.  Anticipating that Berger would shut them out,  they chanted  "Phil skipped school!"

The call to clear the building came just before 8 p.m. and most of the protesters left.  Luckily for me,  the Capitol Police let credentialed reporters stay,  so I didn't risk landing in jail like my colleague Tim Funk did covering last year's Moral Monday civil disobedience.  As police and reporters circled,  the police chief made a proposal:  Would the protesters leave if Berger talked with them?  They agreed,  as long as he listened and responded to their specific points.

Soon after Berger came out,  had staffers pull six blue couches into a circle in the hallway and asked the assembled educators,  college students,  clergy and recent graduates to introduce themselves.

The points made won't come as a surprise to anyone who's been following these things.  Berger talked about how Republicans have increased spending for public education and made tough trade-offs to get North Carolina out of its dismal teacher pay rankings.  Protesters said spending hasn't kept up with enrollment growth,  and urged him to scale back on tax cuts to provide enough money for raises and other spending.

Berger said Republicans were elected to roll back taxes and reduce unemployment.  "We have done what we told the people we would do when we were elected in 2010."

Berger lamented that 40 percent of third-graders have been promoted without being able to read at grade level,  and touted the Read to Achieve act as addressing that.  Teachers said it comes with unreasonable testing,  which Berger blamed on a botched rollout,  rather than the plan itself.

Some of the most heated discussion came when Durham teacher Bryan Proffitt said it sounded like Berger and others blame teachers for students' academic struggles.  Berger said that wasn't what he was saying,  and when pressed,  cited the breakup of families and even the students themselves as contributing factors.

Holly Hardin,  another Durham teacher,  said many of her students'  parents are working multiple jobs,  often without health care.  "Don't you dare blame our students' families!" she said.

With Sen. Tom Apodaca hovering and grousing that the group had dinner plans at 8:45,  Proffitt asked for a few minutes for the teachers to confer and come back with a short list of requests.  As they did so,  Berger and his staff stepped into their offices.

Before Proffitt could present his group's list,  Berger headed them off.  He said he had  "engaged" with Barber earlier in the spring and prepared an amendment that dealt with all the items on the Moral Monday list,  from livable wages and universal health care to collective bargaining for public employees and bringing troops home from Iraq.  Berger read a list of 14 Moral Monday agenda points as his staff handed copies to the protesters.

"Are these things you're saying you're accepting?"  one teacher asked in astonishment.

No, Berger said.  They're things he had the legislative staff draft into an amendment and calculate costs for.  He cited a pricetag of $5 billion to $6 billion,  and said raising that money through corporate income taxes would require raising it from 6 percent to 50 percent.  No legislator of either party would take that on,  he said.

Proffitt finally got to introduce his group's "asks":  Agree to restore all spending for teacher assistants,  provide teacher raises without requiring them to surrender tenure and commit to a public dialogue by the end of this month.

Berger noted that he can't make any promises on what will come out of the House and Senate conference on the budget:  "It's not up to me."

"You have a considerable amount of power,  Senator,"  Proffitt replied.

Bottom line:  Berger said he'd consider some type of follow-up discussion and asked the Moral Monday representatives for suggestions on ways to pay for the assistants without raising taxes.  The group thanked him for talking with them and said they'd leave the building  --  but return if there isn't any real progress.

The follow-up began almost immediately.  Berger's office sent their documents to the media before 10 p.m.,  with the cost estimate up to  "more than $7 billion."

"Sen. Berger explained Senate Republicans could not support that due to the devastating effect it would have on North Carolina jobs,"  said the statement from Berger spokeswoman Amy Auth.  "It is also worth noting that no member of either party in the Senate offered an amendment to accomplish Rev. Barber’s goals."

An hour later Barber issued a news release scolding Berger for holding the meeting only after the building had been cleared.

"We have spent the past few years attempting to get a good-faith meeting between the legislative leadership and the Forward Together Moral Movement,"  he said.  "For Senator Berger to clear the building before meeting with the moral witnesses,  to avoid the people for the past few weeks on Mondays,  is shameful.  Teachers are smarter than that.  The Moral Mondays Movement will not fall for it."


Anonymous said...

CMS is too big.

Shamash said...

"Don't you dare blame our students' families!"


It's not the teachers.

It's not the schools.

It's not the students.

It's not the parents.

Then where does the buck stop?

Oh, yeah, "the rich"...

Blame "the rich" for not giving enough.

Even though many "rich" give quite a bit.

Especially the corporations which have nothing better to do than pay taxes with their income.

I'm glad this "moral" group found another group to demonize.

Too many generalities and not enough specifics in this debate.

I suspect that it's not just "families" and "students" and "teachers" in general.

It's SPECIFIC families, students, and teachers which are the problem.


It's silly to argue about the behavior of entire groups as if they are monolithic.

They are not.

Polarizing the debate around such silliness gets us nowhere.

But that's apparently where some folks like to be.

Wiley Coyote said...

Holly Hardin, another Durham teacher, said many of her students' parents are working multiple jobs, often without health care. "Don't you dare blame our students' families!" she said.

Another tone deaf, out of touch person making excuses.

The agenda isn't parents and kids, it's MORE government spending.

"They want the world with a fence around it and they'd like you to pay for the fence."

The "they" and "you" can be flipped and stated they want the fence removed and want you to pay for everything they want; free healthcare, free food, free transporation, free housing, free child care, etc.

And for Barber to ask Republicans to stop being political extremists is comical. He is the poster child for extremism and also out of touch with reality.

Barber, I suggest you go to Chicago and protest there. All you are is a pedictable one-trick dog and pony show.

Anonymous said...

The uber-rich in this country control and dictate everything. The top 1% "earn" 40% of the money, but don't pay 40% of the taxes. They need to pay their fair share to support the infrastructure, consumers and, yes, government that enable their wealth to grow. That's not socialism; it's simple math.

Shamash said...


Not only do "they" want the fence removed...

They want to camp out in your back yard, using your electricity (and hot water for infrequent showers) while having open access to your fridge.

With eventual squatters rights to your home and property, too.

Oh, well, I guess that's where "moral" gets you nowadays...

More of other people's stuff is always the answer.

H'mm. Now WHERE have I heard THAT before?

Reminds me of the old song which pretty much sums up the "counterculture" argument of the sixties...

"Tax the rich, feed the poor/ till there are no rich no more,"

Ten Years After -

I'd Love To Change The World (but I don't know what to do...)

Anonymous said...

You, of all people, know the cardinal rules of negotiation. Whether or not Putin and Kiev, NBA and Donald Sterling, or Berger and the Moralistas, GO BIG! Showmanship and over the top is where it's at when the news cycle is involved.
So now we've got two factions on talking terms, and whether or not parents, grandparents, Mckinney Vento, or Immigration take responsibility for the care and motivation of students.
Based on the numbers, the parties involved, and in the regional vernacular, "hit ain't never gonna happen!" Whatever hit is?

Shamash said...

Anon 7:57am.

The "uber-rich" basically do not need this country, it's people, or its taxes.

Many of them have already left the US (and renounced their citizenship) primarily due to our oppressive tax system.

This includes major corporations as well as those in the "1%" (well, actually the .1%, who are truly the "uber-rich" and have the greatest concentration of wealth, comparatively speaking)

So "tax the rich" and see who's left to "feed the poor" when there are no rich no more...

Only fools (like the Barbers of the world) can't see where this is headed.

However, those fools (such as the various "Reverends" of the world) will still be "leaders" when the US is broke, too.

In fact, they will be even more powerful as more people become dependent on handouts.

Because they already OWN that game.

The "uber-rich" have options in life that many of us WILL NEVER HAVE.

Don't ask that goose to lay two eggs when one should be enough.

That goose will fly before sacrificing itself for you.

Wiley Coyote said...

7:57...Simple math?

How about this math according to the CBO:

CBO:Top 40% Paid 106.2% of Income Taxes; Bottom 40% Paid -9.1%, Got Average of $18,950 in 'Transfers'

The households in the top 20 percent by income paid 92.9 percent of net income tax revenues taken in by the federal government in 2010, said CBO. The households in the fourth quintile paid another 13.3 percent of net income tax revenues. Together, the top 40 percent of households paid 106.2 percent of the federal government’s net income tax revenue.

American households in the bottom 40 percent paid negative amounts in income-tax dollars and a negative average income-tax rate.

“Much of the progressivity of the federal tax system derives from the individual income tax,” said the report. “In 2010, the lowest quintile’s average rate for the individual income tax was -9.2 percent and the second income quintile’s rate was -2.3 percent.”

The top 1 percent earn 16 percent of all income in the United States, but pay 36.7 percent of all federal income taxes. In fact, the 400 richest Americans together pay nearly as much in federal income taxes as do the 50 percent of taxpayers at the low end of the scale.

You want "fair"? Okay, let's implement a flat tax where everyone pays a certain percentage of their income with ZERO deductions for everyone.

Now that's fair.

And yes, your idea IS socialism....

Anonymous said...

more money is not the answer, personal accountability is. I respect Berger for at least coming out and speaking with them, one has to give him credit. The sad thing is these people blew a perfect opportunity to hold a reasonable conversation.

Give the GOP something more reasonable and both sides may find some common ground. Teacher pay is a good place to start!

Shamash said...


"You want "fair"? Okay, let's implement a flat tax where everyone pays a certain percentage of their income with ZERO deductions for everyone."

Have you ever seen Hong Kong taxes?

They are just about as close to perfect as I've seen in that regard.

They basically can be done on a single page, too.

And it's pretty much a flat tax with few deductions.

It's no wonder that they have been such a large number of multi-millionaires moving and living there (and places like HK...).

Oh, yeah, and their public schools are pretty good, too.

Unfortunately, US citizens there get DOUBLE TAXED on a lot of their income above a certain amount.

It makes more than a few renounce their citizenship.

U.S. Expats Balk at Tax Law


Some U.S. citizens say they are exasperated by a growing raft of paperwork that forces U.S. citizens living abroad to declare the minutiae of their financial holdings and other assets.

That has increased the attraction of becoming a citizen in places such as Hong Kong, where the individual tax rate is capped at 15%.


You know what's REALLY funny to me, Wiley...

When I was a poor 10th grader way back in the 1970's, I argued in my Social Studies class that we should implement a FLAT TAX.

The rate I chose at that time was 15%...

Odd how that actually works somewhere in the real world.

(And funny how 40+ more years of living hasn't changed my mind much.)

Make Barber and his ilk pay their "fair share", and watch how they change their tunes.

Anonymous said...

I know the protesters are really protesting about a lot of different topics. But what I don't understand, in this day in age how a 3rd grader doesn't know how to read at grade level and if the percentages are right 40%? I don't get this. I think some of the money needs to be used to re-teach the parent(s) and significantly weed out this children into special classes. If the parents will not get involved (i.e. read with their children, take out free books at the library, come to afterschool reading classes) then DSS should get involved. In this day in age, if a child can not read at a third grade level and it is due to lack of parental involvement (if a learning disability has not been proven) it should be considered child abuse. This I believe is where we are so far behind. It is pure child abuse if a child in 3rd grade can not read, can not write and does not know xyz. It is time for society to have a backlash on these parents and stop protecting them within the blame game of teachers fault.

Anonymous said...

The teachers need a better salaries. Something needs to be done. I don't understand the importance of tenure. If the principals are ok with it, why aren't they? The only thing most people agree with is teachers pay. Take that out of the equation and moral Monday will be ignored.

Anonymous said...

Ignore the teachers because teachers have ignored:

The last pay for performance ABC Bounus Money ( $1,500 )
Loss of 80/20
Loss of Vision
Loss of Dental

Why care when these workers, taxpayers and politicians dont care. They know these workers will still do their jobs.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the Tillis pay raise for teachers. Is the 5% one time money? Does it have a pay plan with it? Are teachers still going to be in this strange limbo? Is this a real plan? Are teachers going to be paid from year to year? Will they have a pay scale? The house plan seems lazy... The Senate had a plan..

Wiley Coyote said...


Welcome to the real world most of us live in.

You also do have an 80/20 plan.

Here's the link to the NC State Health Plan just in case you misplaced it:


Health Insurance
 ~The State covers the insurance premium for “employee only” with its own plan*.
 ~The employee pays an additional premium for dependent coverage.
 ~Premiums are payroll deducted and are normally on a pre-tax basis. (*State of North Carolina Comprehensive Major Medical Plan)

Anonymous said...

Today a judge in California got rid of tenure in that state because it's considered harmful to kids' education. Bravo to Berger and the senate for trying to do the same thing here. It probably won't work, but it's worth a shot. Give teachers a raise and end the de facto job guarantees. What's not to like?

Anonymous said...

Why would Mcory's plan take 3 years? We have teachers leaving now. If we want to keep our teachers, something needs to be done. Seven years is long enough. Three more would be out of touch. How many pilot program's have we had? How much will they cost? What is wrong with this state? Just have a normal pay plan. What does SC do? What does VA do? Why are we trying these ambitions plans? NC can't even take care of the basic's. This is truly a strange place. Isn't education the states job?

Anonymous said...

6:34, here's the link to the whole thing: http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Budget/2014/S744-CSLRxf-33-v-5.pdf

Anonymous said...

This is a wired place to teach.

Anonymous said...

Teachers in most states have awesome benefits.. Not NC I guess. No wonder some schools are loosing 14 teachers this year.

Anonymous said...

I looked at the pay scale but it doesn't look to be much different. It this scale going to be frozen after this new school year? Are teachers going to move up in pay the next year? Is this going to be an on going saga? Let's just copy Virginia's plan. Hell, South Carolina seems to have it figured out. My sons teachers moving there. Why is this so hard?

Anonymous said...

Is this a real plan for years to come? Or just a one time 5%? With all the state employees, you would think the state could bargain for better benefits.

Anonymous said...


Do you recall what year CMS administrators received the market rate adjustments to their pay?

Anonymous said...

IQ Coyote

Teachers have been reduced to the 70/30 Plan !

They have to pay for :

80/20 Health Plan
Vison Benefits
Dental Benefits

Just another example of thousands of dollars a teacher has lost but nobody talks about.

Anonymous said...

Republicans are going to screw this up. Mcory is a one hit wonder. I am not a liberal or a progressive by any means. This is ridiculous. Make a teaches pay plan, give them a 10% raise and move on. My kids school is loosing teachers and just lost its principal. My kids school was awesome. We where very happy. Now everything is up in the air. Stop tenure from this year on. New hires can't lose what they have never had. You want to piss a bunch of soccer moms off, mess with their kids. Seven years is long enough. South Carolina is down the road. 10,000 more for a short trip is worth it. All the teachers talk about is where they have applications in. Principals aren't even sure who is coming back. Some teachers have interviews over summer. What the heck is 5% going to do? Mcory's "some day plan" is 3 years away. How many teachers will leave? How can you have good schools with such turnover? Principals can't plan
Teachers are focused on leaving. NC is a mess.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 6:49

"Today a judge in California got rid of tenure in that state because it's considered harmful to kids' education. Bravo to Berger and the senate for trying to do the same thing here. It probably won't work, but it's worth a shot. Give teachers a raise and end the de facto job guarantees. What's not to like?"

there is a difference,California has teachers Unions, that is not the case here in NC. A freind of mine who is a principal in our local school system is working to remove ineffective teachers. The biggest factor is the principal, he or she MUST be willing to do the right thing, if it is determined the teacher is the problem. But again, tenure is merely a process to ensure fairness.

Anonymous said...

8:41 p.m., pretty sure that was 2012.

Wiley Coyote said...

9:00 PM

Did you even look at the link? Obviously, you didn't.


There is an 80/20 plan and 70/30 plan.

If I am incorrect, please provide me with the correct information so I will be on point going forward.

Also, like I said, welcome to the real world and new normal.

You have to pay for your healthcare like the rest of us and in the not too distant future, we'll all be on Obamacare.

Anonymous said...

I love teachers.

But with that said, I'm tired of the whining. Teachers work 190 days a year (about 1/2 year). I own a business, work almost 365 days a year and make just a bit above a 6 year teacher's salary. And I pay for all of my family insurance ($10,000 ded) and 50% of all of my employees.

It's not better out here in the real world.

Anonymous said...

If CMS administrators received the market rate adjustment in 2012, would they also get the raise the house and senate are currently discussing?
If so that would be extremely unfair. Those market rate adjustments were outrageous!

Anonymous said...

10:49, I used to agree with you. Until I started seeing all my kids teachers leaving. We have to be competitive. NC just keeps dropping. The people of Raleigh can't even come up with a basic pay plan. Every state in the union has a pay plan. It's strange and it looks bad. Some schools have lost 14- 18 teachers this year. Some teachers are still interviewing over summer. We are loosing good teachers. They can't stay in this strange pay freeze forever. To me its not about a raise but a plan. Teachers should have a pay plan.