The N.C. General Assembly’s convoluted process for coming up with teachers’ raises this year played out like an overextended game of Dirty Santa.
You know the Dirty Santa game. Everyone brings a wrapped gift to a party. Guests draw numbers to determine the order of gift selection.
The first guest picks a present and opens it. The next guest can choose another present to open, or he can claim the first guest’s present for his own.
That’s how the game plays out – back and forth – until all the guests have made their selections and they all go home with what’s left.
That feels more or less the way legislators finally negotiated a raise for teachers this year.
The N.C. Senate proposed an 11 percent pay increase and bunch of cuts, mainly to teachers’ assistants. The N.C. House opted for 5 percent and gambled on more lottery revenue. The swapping and bickering went back and forth until someone finally decided to go home with something like a 7 percent pay raise on average for North Carolina’s teachers.
We say “something like” because educators are still scratching their heads over the final results. The newer teachers appear to be helped most by the new budget, and that’s as it should be – starting pay for teachers in North Carolina had practically become a deterrent to entering the profession.
But after that, the picture grows considerably murkier. The legislature has redistributed the traditional “longevity bonus” for veteran teachers over the course of a year, rather than awarding it in a single lump sum. That sounds OK, but let’s not confuse that money with what is now being called a pay raise.
Local school districts, meanwhile, are trying to figure out how cuts in other areas of the education budget will affect the way they bus, feed and supply students in public schools. The answers to those questions aren’t very clear-cut, either.
Most games of Dirty Santa eventually come to a close, and each guest goes home with a gift of some kind. In the General Assembly’s case, it feels like the legislators left before teachers had a chance to figure out if they had received a worthy present or not.
’Tis not exactly a season to be jolly.