NC Gov. Cooper on teacher pay: ‘I am doing my part’

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Gov. Roy Cooper talks to reporters in Wilmington on July 29, 2019. (Photo: Kylie Jones/WWAY)

RALEIGH, NC (AP) — Gov. Roy Cooper is telling North Carolina public school teachers his side of the story about why the extended state budget impasse means educators haven’t received meaningful raises this year.

Cooper’s office on Friday said it sent a letter to public school principals across the state with the request that it be forwarded to teachers and staff.

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In the letter, dated Thursday, the Democratic governor urges educators to tell legislators to negotiate with him over a better pay plan for teachers and other school personnel. He said he offered a compromise in July and expressed willingness in October to work with Republican lawmakers on education pay separate from the budget.

“Unfortunately, you haven’t been afforded the respect you deserve in the legislative budget process,” Cooper wrote, adding: “I am doing my part. Now we need them to do theirs.”

The deadlock began in June when Cooper vetoed the full two-year budget in part because Cooper wanted average teacher pay at more than twice what the GOP budget offered. Republicans say Cooper is to blame for the impasse because he won’t let go of his Medicaid expansion demand. They also point to a standalone educator pay bill that Cooper vetoed last month as proof he isn’t serious about helping teachers.

Cooper vetoed the 2017 and 2018 budget bills that contained teacher raises. Republicans had large enough seat margins during those years to override the vetoes. But they no longer have veto-proof majorities.

“Gov. Cooper speaks of respecting teachers, but blocking much needed raises doesn’t demonstrate much gratitude for their hard work,” Republican Sen. Deanna Ballard of Watauga County, an education budget-writer, said in a release.

The legislature reconvenes in mid-January.