When is 7% not 7% (NC teacher salary edition)

The Republicans in NC have gotten hammered for the past year over the fact that they have let average teacher salary in NC fall to near the very bottom of the nation.  Regardless of what they really think about teachers and public education, to continue this is simply untenable in an election year.  So, recently they approved a raise for teachers.  The headline is a 7% raise for teachers.  I suspect they are counting on that to be the one fact remembered by most voters.  But it is, of course, much more complicated than that.  The N&O Editorial on the matter was excellent:

But that Republican claim comes with serious caveats. For one, the percentage is reached by folding funds used for longevity pay – a year-end bonus for veteran teachers based on time of service – into the overall raise package. If a teacher gets a 7 percent raise but loses a 3.2 percent longevity payment, it’s not a 7 percent raise. And teachers lose longevity pay for good, while all other state employees retain the benefit.

Finally, most of the boost goes to the newest and lowest-paid teachers while veteran teachers gain little, and the pay scale tops out at $50,000 – $3,000 less than the current schedule…

Beyond the smoke and mirrors aspects, there’s also a serious issue about how the pay increase will be sustained. The $282 million cost of the raise is supported in part by extra money from the lottery and one-time sources – reserve funds and federal grants. With the GOP’s excessive tax cuts projected to cost the state $700 million this year and a total of $5.3 billion over five years – $800 million more than originally projected – it’s not assured the state will be able to afford the raise next year, let alone increase it to lift North Carolina salaries from embarrassing to attractive…

This is a budget drawn up by panicked legislators on the eve of midterm elections. That’s reflected in the rush to do something for teachers by cutting of health and welfare benefits for poor people who don’t have much of a voice in elections. The budget reduces subsidized child care for the poor and cuts Medicaid payments to hospitals.

And Rob Christensen:

This is Politics 101. Legislatures often scramble to provide wage hikes during election years, no matter which party is in control. GOP lawmakers are proud of what House Speaker Thom Tillis called their “conservative revolution.” But while some laws are likely to play well politically – Voter ID for example – the polls suggest North Carolina’s drop to 46th in the country in teacher pay is not something you want to put in your campaign brochure.

Not only is the GOP concerned about losing swing seats in November, but Tillis continues to trail Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.

Hence, the GOP has suddenly recalled that it was Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s pro education record that helped get him elected to the White House in 2000.

Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger announced last week that the legislature was going “to provide (the) largest teacher pay raise in North Carolina.”

That seems to be a stretch…

[plenty of evidence that’s just a flat out lie]

While the decline in teacher pay began under the Democrats, it should be noted that the Republican minority was not calling for higher wages or higher taxes to pay for raises. In fact, quite the opposite. The GOP minority was calling for repeal of the temporary tax hike the Democrats put on to prevent deeper cuts or layoffs.

When the Republicans took control, the economy was picking up. But their priority was not raising teacher salaries – it was cutting income taxes, corporate taxes and inheritance taxes for those with estates of more than $5 million (the only estate taxes still on the books)…

In the last decade, no state had a greater decline in teacher salaries than North Carolina. Tar Heel teachers received no wage increase for three years and a 1.2 percent increase last year…

The Republican legislature was right to raise teacher salaries, which they project should raise North Carolina teacher salaries from 46th in the nation to 32nd.

But the tax cuts will make it difficult for North Carolina to sustain competitive teacher salaries beyond the election year.

James D. Hogan shows (nice chart at the link) just how bad a deal this is when you take inflation into account:

Read that again: if we were simply comparing the proposed 2014-15 salary schedule to the 2008-09 salary schedule, the average teacher would see a pay increase of $270.  [emphasis in original]

Further more, these are raw numbers. What that comparison fails to take into account is the simple cost of inflation over the last 6 years. If the 2008-09 salary schedule had been kept in place and updated each year to account for inflation, the average teacher would earn $4,212 more than the 2014-15 proposed budget would pay them.

Meanwhile, an excellent WUNC story/documentary putting this all wonderfully into the larger context.

The Republicans have a simple message: we raised NC Teacher salaries 7%.  The Democrats’ message is much more complicated… No you didn’t; a lot of teachers get screwed; the raises are not sustainable, etc.   It will be interesting to see how this therefore plays out in the election.  Presumably, the Democrats will have a simpler message along the lines of, most teachers they you actually screwed them, and they would know.  But we’ll see.

And, lastly, not a bad infographic to summarize all this:

Photo of the day

A really interesting gallery at Ozy from a German photographer who re-enacts images of Nazi elites in dramatic backgrounds (in some cases using nude male models).  Weird.  Cool photos (and interesting story at the link).

http://www.ozy.com/rising-stars-and-provocateurs/andreas-mhe-germanys-most-disruptive-photographer/32533.article

Man on top of mountain

Obersalzberg Selbstbildnis, 2012 (Andreas Mühe)

Still hope for my political career

Just came across this bit of unusual political research from quite a while ago:

This study probes one particular component of the well documented linkage between personal appearance and impression formation by investigating the extent to which and the mechanisms through which bald and balding men are underrepresented in high elective office. Study 1 compares the prevalence of hair loss among governors and members of Congress, on the one hand, and the general public, on the other, and concludes that officeholders are much more likely to have a full head of hair than would be expected of men of their age. Study 2 poses an experimental test of voter bias against bald and balding candidates by presenting voters in a simulated congressional race with materials depicting otherwise identical candidates in either their natural bald or balding condition or wearing a professionally fitted hairpiece. No voter bias against bald or balding candidates is apparent, a finding that suggests that the causal mechanism underlying underrepresentation of bald and balding men is not voter bias.  [emphasis mine]

Well, good to know that the extensive loss of hair on my crown (hey, you don’t expect me to show a blog photo from behind, do you) should not impact my political career.

Solar power

I was reading an interesting student paper about solar power a couple weeks ago and was struck by the degree to which it has been successful in Germany.   Here’s ThinkProgress on German solar power:

On Sunday, Germany’s impressive streak of renewable energy milestones continued, with renewable energy generation surging to a record portion — nearly 75 percent — of the country’s overall electricity demand by midday. With wind and solar in particular filling such a huge portion of the country’s power demand, electricity prices actually dipped into the negative for much of the afternoon, according to Renewables International.

In the first quarter of 2014, renewable energy sources met a record 27 percent of the country’s electricity demand, thanks to additional installations and favorable weather…

Once again, it was demonstrated that a modern electricity system such as the German one can already accept large penetration rates of variable but predictable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar PV power,” said Bernard Chabot, a renewable energy consultant based in France, via email. “In fact there are no technical and economic obstacles to go first to 20 percent of annual electricity demand penetration rate from a combination of those two technologies, then 50 percent and beyond by combining them with other renewables and energy efficiency measures and some progressive storage solutions at a modest level.”

And Germany is not a sunny country.  Imagine what we could do in the US!   Check out this map:

So, what are we doing with this great untapped resource?  Well, this being ‘Murica, some of the sunnier (and redder) states have policies that actively work against effective solar power generation.  From the LA Times:

Few places in the country are so warm and bright as Mary Wilkerson’s property on the beach near St. Petersburg, Fla., a city once noted in the Guinness Book of World Records for a 768-day stretch of sunny days.

But while Florida advertises itself as the Sunshine State, power company executives and regulators have worked successfully to keep most Floridians from using that sunshine to generate their own power…

Florida is one of several states, mostly in the Southeast, that combine copious sunshine with extensive rules designed to block its use by homeowners to generate power.

States like Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — not known for clear, blue skies — have outpaced their counterparts to the south in the installation of rooftop solar panels.

While the precise rules vary from state to state, one explanation is the same: opposition from utilities grown nervous by the rapid encroachment of solar firms on their business. [emphasis mine]

The business models that have made solar systems financially viable for millions of homeowners in California, New England and elsewhere around the country are largely illegal in Florida, Virginia, South Carolina and some other Southern states. Companies that pioneered the industry, such as SolarCity Corp. and Sunrun Inc., do not even attempt to do business there.

Solar power is still in need of substantial improvement, but let’s be clear why we are not doing better– policy choices.  Yes, Solar power is seemingly more expensive to generate that non-renewable energy.  But, hello, externalities!  Of course, an honest conservative economist would tell you those externalities should be priced in the form of a carbon tax.  But, the Republican Party is allergic to both taxes and sensible policy, so…  Ugh, again.

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