RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The North Carolina legislature agreed on broad pay raises for public school teachers for the second time since 2014 and is aiming to jump-start again giving instructors even more when they take on additional responsibilities or their students make academic progress.
The $22.3 billion budget on Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk for his expected signature purports to increase state-funded teacher and instructional staff salaries on average by 4.7 percent this fall. Budget-writers predict the adjustments will bring average salaries - when local supplements are added - above $50,000 statewide.
The budget approved July 1 also directs bonuses to follow in January for many. Teachers would receive $25 or $50 for each student they taught who scored high this past year on Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and technical certification tests, capped at $2,000. And third-grade teachers whose students showed the best growth in reading skills could receive as much as $6,800.
Both programs last two years. There also will be a three-year performance-pay program starting in fall 2017 in which 10 districts will be picked to offer teachers salary supplements of up to 30 percent. Similar ideas have been floated or experimented with over the past 30 years. A former statewide bonus program ended due to lack of funds and questions about effectiveness.
“We put a heavy emphasis in this budget on training the teachers, offering teachers opportunities to grow, not just because they can earn more money but so they can take on more responsibility,” said Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, an education budget-writer.
Teachers getting raises would see increases from about 2 percent to 13 percent, depending on where they sat on the salary schedule last year. For example, a 10-year teacher making a base salary of $40,000 will make $41,000 this fall. A 19-year teacher making $43,500 will earn $48,000.
Up to 2,700 of the 92,000 instructors funded by the state wouldn’t see any raise, according to the Department of Public Instruction. These teachers have worked at least 32 years in the schools and have been paid at rates separate from the salary schedule since 2014, when the schedule got consolidated. These teachers already make more than the schedule’s top rung of 25 years, increasing this fall from $50,000 to $51,000.
Still, critics of Republican education policy are emphasizing how some teachers are being left out.
“Again, experienced teachers in North Carolina get shortchanged,” North Carolina Association of Educators President Mark Jewell said.
Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is running against McCrory this November, and other Democrats argue additional money for public school salaries and supplies instead are being rerouted to corporate tax cuts and for scholarships for more K-12 students to attend private schools. But Republicans say public education spending is at an all-time high and teacher pay is rebounding after the Great Recession.
“This budget keeps our promises to support our public schools and raise teacher pay above $50,000,” Senate leader Phil Berger said in a release.
The pay proposal likely will increase North Carolina’s average pay ranking in the South from ninth out of 12 states to seventh, according to the Public School Forum of North Carolina. This past year North Carolina was ranked 41st nationally at $47,985, according to the National Education Association.
“Until we adopt a plan that brings our teachers to the national average in salaries, we’re going to continue hemorrhaging teachers to whoever the competition might be,” Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, D-Wake. “It takes more than just keeping a campaign promise.”
A budget provision says the Legislature wants a salary schedule in fall 2018 that will reduce the number of years teachers work to meet or exceed a $50,000 base salary from 25 years to 15 years. The schedule would still be capped at $51,000.
Brenda Berg, president of BEST NC, a business-oriented education advocacy group, said the move toward paying higher salaries sooner reinforces the need for putting performance-based programs in place now to boost their earnings potential.
“We need to give them a lot of real big opportunities to make more money,” Berg said.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.