Senate budget threatens teaching jobs


I, like nearly all Americans, was stunned by the horrible murders in Charleston last week. While it is a fact that this was an act of one demented person, one must acknowledge that Dylann Roof did not formulate his racial hatred in a vacuum.

The murder of nine innocent people in a house of worship is, on some level, an indication of something dreadfully wrong with our society.

However, I believe strongly in the goodness of the American people and ultimately it will prevail. The response of the families of the victims and the people of Charleston, in general, has been inspiring to watch. The urging of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to remove the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds shows that there is a recognition that old attitudes must change.

I am reminded of the quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. that says “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” My hope is that the truth of that statement is close to becoming a reality.

The dog days of summer have arrived in North Carolina, but the heat hasn’t seemed to sap anyone of energy here at the General Assembly. Since the last newsletter, we’ve been hard at work passing (and sometimes re-passing) legislation that affects the life and landscape of North Carolinians.

I feel the need to note how appreciative I am of the exceptionally large number of you who have called and emailed our office to express your position on bills going through the legislature, whatever your opinions may have been. It is commendable that you can find the time to actively monitor our daily sessions while living full lives in the district.

As you may be aware, the Senate has officially produced their version of the budget for the next two years. Now we embark on the final step of the budgetary process, the long negotiations between representatives from each chamber, in the hopes of finding a mutually acceptable common ground. My colleagues and I are hopeful that both chambers will realize that North Carolina, as a state with a thriving economy, is in a position to do immeasurable good while staying economically vibrant.

However, the Senate majority fails to see the difference between what looks good on a balance sheet and what is right for the state of North Carolina. Their proposal to cut thousands of teaching assistants in K-12 schools while increasing the number of teachers may look good on paper, but in reality, many districts use TA money to hire teachers. The Senate proposal would result in a net loss of both teaching assistants and teachers, ultimately robbing our district of several hundred jobs.

While the House budget also tried to attract more teachers to the state by making teacher pay across their entire career more competitive with our neighboring states, the Senate has abandoned long-term pay adjustments. This, in combination with trying to merge school districts while abolishing training for school board members, is simply playing politics while leaving our schools in jeopardy.

Whatever the political climate here in Raleigh may be, I simply refuse to compromise my support of our children and teachers.

Although the biennial budget is a great tool for change, some policy changes merit careful study and debate by themselves. One such issue is Medicaid reform, which the House recently addressed by passing HB 372, the 2015 Medicaid Modernization Act. Medicaid, which is perennially the second-largest state expenditure, has operated until now in a fee-for-service model, not unlike shopping one item at a time at the grocery store. This left the state unable to control ballooning costs and ordinary citizens unable to take a holistic, long-term approach to their health.

If the Senate concurs with this bill, it will cap cost growth for North Carolina Medicaid spending below national levels while connecting patients with primary care physicians to promote a mindful and proactive approach to individual health.

On another note, the House just sent H562, a bill which amends a number of gun-related laws, to the Senate. A number of the sections in this bill propose changes of minor note — allowing suppressors on short-barreled rifles for hunting or protecting gun-ranges from ex post facto noise ordinances.

However, the sections which allow concealed handguns on educational property, as well as the retrieval of those handguns in the case of an imminent threat, are a breach of both logic and public safety. I respect an American’s solemn right to buy and keep firearms, but guns and schools simply do not mix.

In the coming week, we will celebrate July Fourth for the 239th consecutive year since our Founding Fathers met in a room in Philadelphia to sign a piece of paper that would declare our independence and change the course of world history. As our country has marched ever boldly into the future, the mandate the Declaration of Independence set forth still remains strong. July Fourth is a day not just for celebration and commemoration, but also for contemplation of how precious and how fragile our liberty is.

I always appreciate all of you who have taken the time to write, call or visit me to share your concerns with the issues that matter most to you. Please continue to keep me informed on legislation of concern and interest to you. Your input is an important source of information to me, and an invaluable part of the democratic process.

Wishing you and yours a happy Fourth of July.

Rep. Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, represents Richmond, Scotland, Montgomery, Hoke and Robeson counties in N.C. House District 66. Reach him via email at ken.goodman@ncleg.net or call his legislative office in Raleigh at 919-733-5823.

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