First, I must say that Gov. Pat McCrory is not my father except maybe in a metaphorical way like in the best of the Star Wars movies, The Empire Strikes Back. Remember that scene? You know the one where Luke has his hand cut off by Darth Vader who then says, “I am your father.” And when the Dark Lord says that he is really trying to lure Luke to the dark side rather than offer an apology.
What I mean by comparing Gov. McCrory to a guilt-ridden deadbeat dad is that he is trying to do too little too late to ameliorate his relationship with teachers in North Carolina for all the wrong reasons.
Ironically, Gov. McCrory actually trained to be a teacher at Catawba College. He even student-taught, but launched a different career with Duke Energy before turning to politics. There are even teachers in his immediate family. He should know the value of public schools and the worth of teachers. He should know that under his administration average teacher pay has dipped to near the bottom in the nation.
It’s like he cut off a hand of the public schools with his legislative light saber and spent three years trying to lure teachers to the dark side with ideas of merit pay and other empty promises.
But something happened to make him want to reconcile with his teachers.
On April 5th at a press conference at Ragsdale High School the governor announced a new education proposal. Lynn Bonner reported in the Charlotte Observer that same evening,
Gov. Pat McCrory presented a package of education spending proposals Tuesday that included a 5 percent average teacher pay raise and bonuses that would average 3.5 percent.
McCrory said that veteran teachers, who got the smallest increases in a 2014 pay plan, would get the bigger bonuses. Teachers with 25 or more years experience would receive $5,000 bonuses; those with less experience would get $1,100 bonuses. Principals would be included in the plan for bonuses.
In the midst of what has happened in the last few years with teachers and teacher pay, this seems like a last ditch effort to please teachers. And there is motive there.
One, there is the incredibly bad press surrounding the governor and the HB2 bill. Not only did the governor sign an egregious bill only 12 hours after it was presented, it caused much backlash around the country. Literally minutes before the governor took to the stage, PayPal announced that it was no longer expanding in Charlotte. It was just another example of how badly HB2 has affected North Carolina.
He had to do something to stop the bleeding like a deadbeat dad who all of a sudden buys a bunch of gifts for the kids he never paid attention to in order to feel better about himself.
Secondly, it is an election year. McCrory knows that teachers vote, and they are large in numbers.
Let me remind you that North Carolina has 100 counties, each with a county public school system. According to the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Dept. of Commerce, the public schools are at least the second-largest employers in nearly 90 of them—and the largest employer, period, in 66. That means teachers and administrators (and those who are related to them) represent a strong base for most communities.
Again, it’s like a deadbeat dad who all of a sudden shows up and tries to buy his kids’ love. It may ameliorate the situation for a short time for a small few, but it looks more like an election ploy.
I am sure that the governor harbors good intentions. There was also an inkling of good left in Darth Vader. When he took off the mask that the dark side constructed for him in the movie The Return of the Jedi, he did show that he loved his kids. But that also occurred after he had just thrown the emperor into an exploding chasm to end a threat to the rebel alliance.
Maybe when the governor throws the General Assembly off its imperial pedestal (or at least stand up to them), then he may earn some trust of teachers. Maybe it will not appear that he is trying to buy our approval.
But until then, he is another figure on a Death Star on West Jones Street powered by Duke Energy.
Oh, and about those bonuses the governor also mentioned in his press release – just send it to my PayPal account.