The 2021 Long Session has officially started with legislators returning from their swearing in ceremony a couple weeks ago. The long session is the beginning of a new biennium, and the North Carolina General Assembly prepares a brand new budget for the next two years. PENC has been meeting with legislators from both sides of the aisle via Zoom since early last fall in preparation for the 2021 Long Session. We also had a Zoom meeting with the new Superintendent of Public Instruction, Catherine Truitt. During these meetings, PENC continued to advocate for legislators and DPI to continue to take the pandemic seriously and to provide our educators with policies to help keep everyone safe and continue providing adequate funding for PPE.
Our entire legislative priority list will be available to see online soon, but we will be heavily focusing on what we call the PENC Big Three this session. Again, we will be pushing for all the necessary safety measures as we continue to live with the pandemic, and that will not change! These three major issues are in addition to the safety of our students and educators:
1. Salary Increases - PENC will be advocating for salary increases for all our educators and support staff. We will be reminding the governor and legislators that teachers and support staff were the only two groups that serve the state that did not receive a pay raise last biennium. We have not forgot that, and we intend to not let them forget that either. PENC will be pushing for a significant raise to help make up for the loss of revenue last session. Our educators have been through a lot with the pandemic, and have truly been on the front line! We will be fighting for all educators.
2. Health Insurance for New Hires – Unfortunately, the legislature passed a law a few years back stating that new hires will not receive health insurance upon retirement starting in 2021. This will in no way impact those hired before 2021. However, this will absolutely hurt with recruitment of new teachers. Some of the advocates say that they did this because the millennial group will not stay in the profession for 30 years. If that is believed to be true, why would one exacerbate the situation and make it worse. Why wouldn’t legislators continue to offer benefits, and increase the salary to attract the best and brightest to the field of education? Some argue it is about protecting the integrity of the state health plan, but what good is a state health plan if employees retire with nothing. This law does not make sense, and PENC will be fighting to repeal it.
3. Accountability – In addition to all the safety concerns caused by the pandemic, accountability is on every educator’s mind. The uncharted waters educators and students have been forced to swim in will without question impact performance. PENC agrees that we need to know where our students are at in their education journey, but we believe that our educators and schools should not be held accountable. School grades and any other accountability measures should be suspended until the pandemic is behind us. PENC will be advocating for this measure so that our educators will not be unfairly judged.
PENC will continue sharing legislative updates and reports to keep you informed on the happenings in Raleigh! As always, thank you for your service to the state of North Carolina, and stay safe out there!