Jim Clark: Nevada and North Carolina education issues
June 11, 2014
Readers of the Bonanza and its sister newspapers know that their subject coverage is largely limited to the communities surrounding Lake Tahoe and their cities and counties. With the advent of Google and similar search engines, local articles can travel amazing distances.
This week I received an email from Ms. A.P. Dillon of North Carolina inquiring about a column I wrote in April 2011 which appeared in the Tahoe Daily Tribune. The piece concerned then Washoe County School Superintendent Heath Morrison, who, readers will recall, left Washoe County to accept an offer as superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina.
Ms. Dillon wrote that Morrison "has teamed up with multiple 'teacher pay' non-profits to push for higher salaries, . . . helped form a 'Large Districts Superintendent Consortium' (in) 8 or so other large districts in NC and generally seems to be cozy with the NC Associations of Educators (NCAE). The NCAE is the unofficial union for teachers as NC does not allow public worker unionization" (emphasis added). Ms. Dillon added that she merely wanted to compare notes about Morrison to see if I could add anything that might be useful.
I responded briefly that it is no surprise that Heath sought higher compensation for his teachers and that in the short time he was in Washoe County he was pretty innovative. My real interest was in Ms. Dillon's comment that North Carolina "does not allow public worker unionization."
It has been an article of faith … the Holy Grail … of Nevada Chambers of Commerce, taxpayer organizations and business associations that Chapter 288 of Nevada Revised Statutes covering collective bargaining by public employee unions needs to be reformed. While the law requires collective bargaining agreements to be approved at public meetings salary, benefits, contract terms and other negotiations are conducted in secret. As a result the votes of people we elect, many of whom accept large campaign contributions from unions, never see the light of day.
Four years ago, Democrats controlled the North Carolina state house and the legislature by 68 to 52. Now the state has a Republican governor, GOP control of the legislature by 77-43 and their Democrat U.S. senator is in the fight of her political life.
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So I began an e-dialogue with Ms. Dillon about a GOP trending state where there are no public worker unions.
She wrote: ". . . education funding in NC takes up more than half the state budget as it is, with 90% of the money allotted to education going to salary and pensions. It's a bit of a mess — thanks to former Governor Bev Perdue (D-NC). It was also Perdue that froze teacher pay to begin with but all we hear is that it's the GOP's fault."
She continued: "Firing a teacher in NC is a difficult and long process that more often than not fails. The end result is shifting (of) the bad apples from one cart to another and hope no one notices."
The North Carolina K-12 school system characteristics Ms. Dillon reports are largely the same in Nevada so perhaps there are no legislative silver bullets to curb abuses of power by public worker unions.
Nevertheless taxpayers have to grate at this week's local media report that the City of Reno firefighters union is suing to reverse a city council layoff of 35 firemen and at the same time, in secret collective bargaining negotiations, time demanding an 8 percent raise. Detroit, Vallejo, Stockton and San Bernardino have all declared bankruptcy due to excessive compensation of public workers.
Where will it all stop?
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates, and has served on the Washoe County and Nevada state GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.