On Tuesday, I gathered with teachers and other allies of education at the North Carolina General Assembly. The question of the day was centered in the Senate. Would the Democrats stay 21 strong, or would the Senate override the governor’s veto? However, there was another bill in the House that needs our attention too.
Because of the budget impasse, kid’s of military veteran’s had their scholarship in jeopardy. So, the NC House and the NC Senate fixed the issue. Just like that. It was a stand alone bill. It was bipartisan. It passed in the House and the Senate with little fanfare. They got something done.
So, why not education? Why play strategic political games with teachers and more importantly our children? Why can’t they just get a bill out there that pays our teachers and our support staff a well deserved raise? I think I know. They don’t really want to.
Make no mistake I’m calling out the current Republican leadership in the NC General Assembly. They are in control. They have a majority. With the political will, the GOP majority in the House and Senate could fund education. While the Democrats have the ability to put the breaks on what they perceive as bad bills and bad budgets, that’s it. The GOP is in power, still has a majority, and thus has the power to lead. They aren’t leading, at least not in public education.
A veto is simply a check and balance to the legislative power. The GOP has the ability to renegotiate everything. They could write a stand alone bill today to pay our support staff a living wage of $15 an hour. The simple fact that no bill exists means that it isn’t an important enough issue to them.
We saw this with class size chaos. The issue of securing funding for our P.E., music, and other specialist teachers could have been solved within a year. It could have been solved without a bill that added unrelated matters. It could have been fully funded and included construction money to address the space issue as well. That isn’t what happened. Instead it took more than a year of advocacy, a bill that added on controversial issues, and a bill that didn’t fully address the original issue.
The current leadership is telling our teachers, our bus drivers, our students that they aren’t willing to work to get the job done. The veto is a new reality. The NCGA GOP member’s absolute power is in check. However, make no mistake, they still hold the cards. They still can and should fund our public schools and provide living wages to our educators. The fact that they aren’t doing anything, but trying to give ultimatums is telling. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. In the case of North Carolina’s GOP leadership, where there isn’t a will, there’s no way we’re getting anywhere.