They’re not highway numbers, or ages. They are the two big numbers driving North Carolina’s education debate this year.
When you take an eight-miles-high view of the legislature, setting aside the partisan debates and vitriol, the most striking thing is that Republicans are arguing this year over whether to raise teacher pay 5-6 per cent (the House and Governor McCrory) or 11 percent (the Senate).
Now, set aside for a moment Democrats’ objections that neither 5,6 or 11 is real, as all the pay raise proposals come with big holes and big cuts in other education areas. The point is that, one year after freezing teacher pay, Republicans are competing to claim they raised teacher pay.
Enter this story and map by Dave Dewitt and Keith Weston from WUNC radio: “Why is a teacher raise suddenly so important?…In 64 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, a local school system is the largest single employer. A local school system is the second-largest employer in 24 other counties. In only 12 counties a school system not in the top two.”
These numbers recall what a long-time lobbyist predicted last year: “The legislators are going to go home and find out that a lot of school teachers and school employees are Republicans.”
And so they did.
Which leads to the other number: 48. That’s where education advocates say North Carolina ranks in per-pupil spending, and they say we’re in race to the bottom.
Behind all this, you can be sure, is another set of numbers that has caught Republican’s attention: the polls on their approval ratings.