Earlier this year, teachers across the country staged walkouts or full-on strikes to protest low wages and lack of investment in education. North Carolina public school teachers and their allies participated too, calling for better pay and more overall school spending to improve our children’s education.
Right now, the Tar Heel state is not investing as much in public school education as it should, or even as it did before the 2007-2009 economic recession. School funding is down 7.9 percent per student since then, after adjusting for inflation. And despite some recent salary increases, average teacher pay has fallen 5 percent since 2010, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. If we truly care about making sure our young people are prepared to lead their best lives and asuring our state continues to be a desirable place to live, we should be investing more, not less, in our children.
Given the state of education funding and the clear public will to invest more, it’s troubling that some lawmakers pushed for a ballot measure that, if passed, would amend the State Constitution to cap North Carolina’s personal income tax rate at 7 percent. The choice we North Carolinians make this November will affect how our state can raise money for education and other vital programs and services in the short- and long-term.
None of us has a crystal ball. We cannot with 100 percent certainty predict what our collective public needs will be one year from now, let alone 5 or 20 years in the future. Adopting a constitutional amendment that caps the top tax rate may appease anti-tax advocates and wealthy donors, but it is not sound policymaking. In effect, it would pre-emptively impose the will of some people on future generations and hamstring the state’s ability to meet its growing needs over time.