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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Dear NCGOP: Stop using teachers as pawns

Ella Icard

If you asked me a couple months ago to sum up my thoughts on the state budget in one word it would be: boring. 

If you ask me now, it would be: VERY IMPORTANT (which is two words, but let me live). 

The North Carolina state budget is confusing to say the least. It’s been debated in session for months and there is no end in sight. Sessions have been full of deceit, backroom meetings and the classic NCGOP trick of excluding Democrats from decision making. 

The newest development in this never-ending saga is that Republicans are trying to overrule Gov. Cooper’s budget veto by increasing teacher salaries. 

The stand-alone idea of increasing teacher salaries is good. On average, teachers in North Carolina make $53,900, which is not enough. The Republican proposed budget would increase it by 3.9 percent or 4.4 percent — and this is the important part — if Democrats agree to overrule the budget. 

The catch is the Republican budget also includes significant corporate tax cuts and does not expand Medicaid. 

To put it bluntly, Republicans are using teachers as pawns in their political game. 

And just like when a student is disrupting their classroom, teachers are not putting up with it. 

Across the state, teachers have held walk-ins in which they protest outside their schools before the first bell to raise awareness about the budget issue. 

The frozen budget means schools are unable to hire new employees, including mental health professionals and social workers.

To be clear, just because Gov. Cooper vetoed the budget, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to increase teacher pay. In fact, he wants to increase it even more. Part of the reason he vetoed it was because the proposed raise wasn’t enough. 

Just to make things even more infuriating, Republican state senators refuse to hold a budget vote while Democrats are present because with Democrats present, the overrule wouldn’t pass. N.C. Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, called out the corruption on video and implored Republicans to do their job by holding the vote. The Republican Leadership response? To acknowledge — on camera — that they will hold a vote, just not with Democrats present. 

This is an absurd way for government to function. Tactics like this are the reason we still don’t have a budget. It’s the reason teachers still have to work second jobs while paying for school supplies out of their own pockets. Teachers should be inside the classroom, teaching the next generation rather than picketing outside. 

The budget battle has gone on for far too long. It’s time for Republicans to do their job and hold a vote even if — especially if — Democrats are present. Most importantly, it’s time to stop using teachers as political pawns and to actually pay them what they deserve. 

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