Darts and laurels
Laurels to a move in the N.C. Legislature to mitigate the immediate impact of the budget change eliminating extra pay for teachers who obtain advanced degrees. As passed in this legislative session, the law would take effect for anyone who hasn’t finished a master’s degree during the 2013-14 term. That would penalize teachers who enrolled in graduate school expecting to receive a 10-percent pay hike but won’t be able to complete their studies before the legislative cutoff takes effect. Several Republican legislators recognize this as a problem and say they’ll work to revise the law in the 2014 session to give teachers longer to complete current graduate work and thus qualify for the higher pay. That’s the fair thing to do. Most teachers pursue advanced degrees to increase their effectiveness in the classroom, not merely for a few more bucks, but the process can take several semesters of part-time classess, and lawmakers shouldn’t change the pay rules in the middle of the game.
Dart to high-paying government jobs that aren’t open to a wide-range of applicants. Based on an Associated Press review, that appears to be the case with the two senior-level staff positions that Gov. Pat McCrory handed over to a couple of 24-year-olds. Previously, McCrory had said the whiz kids were the best-qualified applicants for the jobs paying $80,000-plus per year. But the administration hasn’t been able to offer any evidence that the positions were ever advertised or other candidates considered. Technically, the posts are exempt from the rules that govern most state jobs, and McCrory has insisted the promotions were based on merit, not politics. Perhaps so, but the search process doesn’t look very thorough at this point.
Laurels to a slight drop in Rowan County’s unemployment rate in July. The decline to 9.3 percent from 9.5 in June isn’t dramatic, by any means, but it’s movement in the right direction and indicative that the local economy is experiencing the same slow but steady improvement that’s occurring nationally. More evidence of that improvement came Friday with news that the number of Americans seeking jobless benefits remained at the lowest level in more than five years. With about 4.5 million people currently receiving jobless benefits, hiring hasn’t picked up much steam but economists say fewer layoffs are occurring.