As Democrats look to counter Senate Republicans on teacher pay, they should look outside the revenue box.
The 11 percent raise/end tenure plan caught the headlines and seemed to catch Democrats (and Governor McCrory) off guard. Democrats responded that the plan would gut education, UNC and Medicaid to fund an election-year pay raise that comes with strings attached.
But suppose Democrats raise the bidding now. Suppose they say: 11 percent is a nice start, Senator Berger, but not nearly enough. Let’s raise teacher pay 33 percent, so Houston can’t hire away our good teachers. And let’s pay for it by raising taxes on upper incomes and raising sales taxes on everybody.
(Why 33 percent? Well, it sounds good. And that’s how much North Carolina raised teacher pay in Governor Hunt’s last term in the ‘90s.)
Some Democrats fear opening the tax-increase box. But that may be a false fear, left over from the politics of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
If voters are truly angry about the damage done to public schools, then they may be ready to pay to fix it, if the fix seems fair enough and broad enough.