3rd Shift – Art Pope’s Jihad Against Public Education & Educators

By Chad Nance

“The political lesson of Watergate is this: Never again must America allow an arrogant, elite guard of political adolescents to by-pass the regular party organization and dictate the terms of a national election.”

– President Gerald Ford

An American city burns after another unarmed young black man is gunned down by police. Islamic extremists are carving their own state out of the Iraqi desert. Narco-terrorist have pushed refugees over our borders. Even those who would make us laugh are looking for the exits. In North Carolina our schools and infrastructure crumble as one entire industry prepares to abandon the state and everyone else tries to find a sustainable way to maneuver around a massive budget deficit created by corporate hand-outs and tax breaks for the already loaded. Things are getting’ weird all over in this brutal Year of our Lord 2014 with serious indications that the situation won’t begin to mellow in the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile in Raleigh…

 

art
art

Art Pope has decided to use his minions at Civitas, the John Locke Foundation, and behind the Governor’s desk to go hammer and tongs against the one group of North Carolinians he seems to fear- School Teachers. That’s right folks, those scary, evil over-lords of liberal indoctrination who have infected our children with the evils of science, literature, advanced mathematics, and the arts must be crushed beneath Sugardaddy Art’s boots at all cost. To that end he’s dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars in billboards and a website trying to lash out at his political enemies in the NCAE. Already Art’s money has cost them their payroll deduction option, which hurt the organization. Then as it became clear to teachers that they were being economically and politically marginalized, teachers began to push back. Teachers began to be arrested in Raleigh with Moral Monday demonstrators. Teachers let it be known that they were not going to take it anymore.

If there is one thing a little rich boy named Art never had to hear growing up the son of a successful discount retailer was that he could possibly be wrong about anything. One nice thing about having a whole lot of dough is that it isn’t hard to find people who would be happy to kiss your ass and tell you that every single notion- no matter how asinine or wrong- that comes into your pasty, bald dome is a golden nugget of solid wisdom.

So the teachers started breaking Art and his pals’ political balls. With Thom Tillis trying to get to the Senate and Pat McCrory staring down the barrel of being a one-term wonder there was some energy behind taking a more moderate position towards teachers in order to keep them from becoming the ground team for opposition candidates-  besides, the one thing politicians like to do in an election year is hand out cash. Big Daddy Phil Berger, however, doesn’t give one or even two shits what anyone thinks and he saw a fine opportunity for a little professional blackmail.

The battle was enjoined and teachers were left on the sidelines and never consulted. The budget battle wasn’t about them, anyway. It was about Raleigh political power and how it will be wielded heading into the future. Teachers were an afterthought. Throw them a bone and they’ll be so hungry that the scraps on the linoleum will look as good as the steak on the table.

Then Art, McCrory, and Thom started crowing about how they’d given North Carolina’s teachers the largest pay raise in history. Of course it was a lie and the teachers, represented by the NCAE, hit back. They didn’t kneel in thanks and supplication, teachers simply refused to be used as political pawns… and how dare they? Ungrateful scum!

Pope and his people have gone hard on the offensive. McCrory attacked teachers on the day he signed the budget into law. That very prickly and personal attack, was accompanied by several McCrory lies including that the budget didn’t eliminate any teachers aid positions and the raise was the highest ever.

teachers
teachers

According to a recent op-ed by WS/Forsyth County Schools budget Kerry Crutchfield for the W-S/Forsyth County Schools alone the 2013 budget had already reduced funding for teacher assistants by between $3.7 and $4.1 million. The 2013 budget included around $700,000 back for TAs, but the Republican’s 2014 budget removed that funding. In practical terms it means that 24 teacher assistants will have to be cut for this school year. That is almost one for every elementary school in Forsyth County and some of your friends and neighbors now out of a job. The budget that Art’s boy Pat signed, slashed another $3 million in TA funding and claims to replace it with $3 million of funds for teacher positions. Supposedly the funding for the teacher positions could be transferred to teacher assistant funding by the individual school districts if they choose to keep teacher assistants. Except that it absolutely can’t be used for that. In 2012 the legislators passed a bill aimed at exacting a pound of flesh from the Democratic lead Wake County School Board that limited funding transfers of teacher positions.

The Republican messaging on their “Historic” pay raise is pitiful at best and at worst represents a naked cynicism that makes Richard Nixon and Dick Cheney look like rank amateurs. The final budget completely scalped the teacher salary schedule, replacing it with a plan that gives teachers early in their career a big increase and gave the high-hard-one to some veteran teachers who will barely get crumbs. Longevity pay, the yearly bonuses to employees who have worked for 10 years or more will be aggregated into the teacher salary schedule, essentially removing all bonuses rather than adding in pay. Unlike the last time teachers got an across-the-board 1.2 % raise the percentage increases for 2014 will range from 18.5% for teachers with five and six years of experience to .29 % increases for teachers with 30 years experience.

The budget is no more historic than it is coherent. The NCAE (representing over 90,000 NC teachers) had the nerve to point out that the Pope messaging was wrong. They should have checked in with Forsyth County’s recently fired director of the Board of Elections about what happens when you publicly criticize Civitas or their sugar daddy.  Now Art is saying that if you want a raise and you’re a teacher you have to quit the one state-wide organization that has been in the bloody trenches fighting for you.  Black is white, up is down, and Art is right because his mamma told him so.

art's billboard
art’s billboard

Now Art is pumping money into billboards and a campaign to try to get teachers to leave the NCAE. It’s petty, belligerent, and adolescent… all the earmarks of Art Pope and the Ayn Rand wannabes he helped push into office on Jones St. Political revenge is more important that policy progress to these swine, but then we knew that didn’t we?

Art officially left his seat as State Budget director last week. Scuttlebut around Jones St. is that the old boy has his eyes set on heading up North Carolina’s University system. With the amount of destruction he and his money have wrought on public education, the prospects for our internationally recognized college system looks grim at best. Art bailed after helping to create one of the least sustainable, reasonable, or realistic budget in the history of North Carolina. This is a budget so convoluted and filled with political bile that it will take a decade or more to repair the damage.

 

Maybe I should leave little Art alone. After all, like Pat said, he’s a victim. Looking back over this article I tend to agree with them. These poor, oppressed millionaires who just want to help guide us into the promised land where North Carolina is as it should be- free from that bourgeois middle-class that educates their children and vacations at the beach. Those sorts of folks aren’t corporate friendly enough. To be truly corporate friendly what is really needed is a great number of under-educated workers who have been born and bred in poverty… so they don’t expect much out of life. Pollute the water, pollute the air, use North Carolina up and then Art, Pat, Thom, Phil and the whoever wasn’t too stupid to get out early or became one with the zeitgeist will retire to homes in Honduras where for $3 a day you can pay a peasant to act as a personal footstool. We’ll all hole up in vast Gringo ranches and let the narco-cartels use our private airstrips to ship poison back to Carolina’s inner cities. That’ll teach those basterds.

Now that I see clearly I am almost trembling with the breadth of possibility… what have I been thinking?