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News State / Region

A month after the fiscal year ended, North Carolina’s General Assembly was able to come to an agreement on a more than $21 billion spending plan for the state, which Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law last Thursday morning.

While many of the headlines focused on the impact the new budget will have on education, the state’s structure involving Medicaid also was a point of contention for lawmakers. Raleigh officials stumbled on how to effectively reign in Medicaid spending, as well as ensure that all citizens receive the care and coverage that they need.

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This year’s state budget, which was signed into law Thursday, Aug. 7, provides substantial raises for every one of North Carolina’s more than 100,000 public school teachers.

The state sets the base pay for our teachers, and this has an included extra amount paid out each year (after 10 years of teaching) called “longevity pay.” The new raises included in the budget is on top of that extra amount, and under the proposed budget plan, the process is reformed and simplified by folding the extra longevity pay back into the new base pay. By rolling longevity pay into base pay, it gives the public a more honest accounting of what our teachers receive from the state.

The chart at right shows the raises from the state that each teacher will receive next year (in green) over what they currently receive (in blue), based on how many years they have taught school. The new average base salary (including longevity pay and the new pay raises) is $49,117 — now the fourth highest in the southeast. (When you divide $49,117 by the total number of weeks spent working (44), you get an average new weekly wage of $1,116. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly wage across North Carolina was just $673 in 2012. In most counties, it is significantly lower.)

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On Wednesday, August 20, 2014 the League of Women Voters of Macon County will sponsor a forum: Public Education in North Carolina--Reform or Decline?

A panel of local award-winning educators will discuss budget cuts and how they are affecting our local schools, educational standards, class size, teacher presence, and our childrens’ needs.

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The state continues to be on hold in the wait for Governor Pat McCrory to sign North Carolina’s new budget plan. After weeks of back and forth and negotiations over portions of how to fund services throughout the state, the House and the Senate have agreed on a $21.1 billion spending plan that is just awaiting the governor’s signature before taking effect.

The budget taps into the state’s savings plan for a total of $620 million as well as cuts into the reserve funds to ensure that the $21.1 billion budget is fully funded. A new salary schedule for public educators was one of the points of contention for the General Assembly. The final budget identifies a seven percent raise across the board for North Carolina teachers – a $282 million increase in teacher pay in the state. Other school-based administrators will receive a roughly $800 raise and central office personnel and other noncertified staff will receive $500.

Other state employees can expect to see a $1,000 pay raise, and five additional vacation days. In addition to teacher pay, the state plans to spend $42 million to reduce class sizes in kindergarten classrooms to 18 children per teacher as well as 17 students per teacher in first grade, which calls for an increase of about 760 positions.

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