Last week, North Carolina Senate Republicans revealed their proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which if approved, would feature the largest teacher pay hike in state history. At 11.2 percent or $468 million of the overall $21 billion state budget, the Senate offered the pay increase, but it came with a catch. Teachers would have to willingly forego their teacher tenure rights.
The proposed budget, which cleared committee and is not headed to the floor for debate, would begin giving teachers in the state a 11.2 percent permanent pay raise starting on July 1 and would boost North Carolina from being 47th overall in teacher pay, to being near the middle for the national average.
The press release from Senate Republicans claimed that the pay increase would provide more than $5,800 a year per teacher’s salary in the first year.
“I am pleased that the Senate and Gov. McCrory agree that teachers are deserving of a pay increase,” said Macon County Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin. “This is something that must be done in order for us to attract the best candidates into a very important profession.”
While the state of teacher tenure law is currently uncertain in North Carolina as Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood recently overturned it and issued a statewide injunction deeming the law unconstitutional, the Senate’s proposed budget would give a different take on the law. According to the Senate’s proposed budget, teachers would be offered the choice to either maintain their tenure status and remain on their current pay scale, without a raise, or give up their current status and be moved to the new pay scale and receive a substantial salary increase.
The proposed budget goes even further and matches North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s budget plan to provide additional public school employees with pay increases as well. Under the Senate’s plan, principals and other school administration would see an average two percent increase while other employees would see a flat $500 pay raise.
Even though the proposed budget adds $468 million in teacher raises, Senate Republicans said that it would be done without raising taxes, and instead would come from recurring revenue sources. In addition to the pay increases, the proposed budget includes significant decreases to areas such as teacher assistants and the University School system, both areas that could recoup some of the revenue being proposed for teacher pay raises.
Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin noted that in order for the state to be able to increase salary, they also proposed the following, which would adversely affect local districts:
Governor McCrory’s budget also featured a pay increase for teachers, although not nearly as substantial at only 2 percent.
During a recent meeting between Macon County Commissioners and the Board of Education, County Commissioner Ronnie Beale said that although it is not certain how much of a salary increase teachers anticipate, he is certain they can expect some sort of a raise. According to Beale, he believes a large portion of the salary raise will come from cuts in other areas as well as utilization from the state’s lottery funds, which have not gone toward education as much as they should since the program’s inception.
The issues with North Carolina teachers' pay is being noticed in other parts of the country. Just last month, the largest school district in Texas took out classified ads in local newspapers in an attempt to recruit North Carolina teachers. The ad promised a starting salary of $46,805, which is significantly more than North Carolina offers.
The ad circulated around the Raleigh area was for the Houston area. Coincidentally, Houston Superintendent Terry Grier is a former North Carolina superintendent who was formerly in charge of Guilford County Schools.
Recognizing the lack of commitment to teachers on the state level, local districts have taken it into their own hands. The Wake County Board of Commissioners is proposing budget amendments that would give them the top spot when it comes to local salary supplement for teachers.
While by law, teacher salary is the responsibility of the state, local governments are permitted to provide teachers with a supplement on top of the state issued salary. Currently, Macon County provides teachers with an annual 2 percent salary supplement.
Wake County wants to be known as the highest supplement in the state and wants to top the $6,400 a year supplement currently given to Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. Currently, Wake County provides teachers with an annual supplement of $6,200.