Compiled by Jesse Wood
May 30, 2014. Senate GOP leaders on Wednesday unveiled a plan that would raise teacher pay permanently by 11.2 percent starting the first of July. It would amount to a $468 million increase, the largest in North Carolina’s history.
A release from Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) noted that it would boost North Carolina from 47th overall in teacher pay in the state to the middle of the state rankings.
“There’s no greater investment we can make than in preparing our children for the future, and that’s why Senate Republicans have focused on improving student outcomes since day one,” Berger said in a statement. “We’ve already taken steps to reform education and improve early career and performance pay for teachers. Investing nearly half a billion dollars in pay raises will make North Carolina a regional leader and encourage the best and brightest teachers to make a long-term commitment to their profession, our students and our state.”
While senate leaders were calling the measure “groundbreaking,” WRAL reported on Thursday that the teacher pay increase would come from slashing funding for teaching assistants and other areas of the budget.
“During a news conference Wednesday, Senate leaders boasted that their spending plan would be the largest pay increase for teachers in the state’s history. But they declined to say how they would fund that pay boost without a tax increase.
Budget documents released late Wednesday night give details of the spending plan and suggest that cuts to teaching assistants in early-grade classrooms will pay for roughly half of the salary plan.
Senate budge writers save $233.1 million a year by cutting funding for classroom teaching assistants in kindergarten through third grade in half. The new funding formula would effectively provide teaching assistants only in kindergarten and first grade.”
Read more of the WRAL report here.
Statement from Senate Leaders
Senate Republicans Propose Largest Teacher Pay Increase In State History
Senate Republicans unveiled a groundbreaking plan Wednesday to provide North Carolina public school teachers an average 11.2 percent permanent pay raise beginning July 1. The $468 million increase would be the largest in state history and would boost North Carolina from 47th in overall teacher pay to the middle of current national rankings and from 9th to 3rd in the Southeast, propelling the state ahead of Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina.
The plan, which replaces the archaic 37-step system with an entirely new base pay scale designed to attract and keep the best teachers in the classroom, would provide more than a $5,800 average salary increase per teacher in the first year of implementation.
“There’s no greater investment we can make than in preparing our children for the future, and that’s why Senate Republicans have focused on improving student outcomes since day one,” said Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham). “We’ve already taken steps to reform education and improve early career and performance pay for teachers. Investing nearly half a billion dollars in pay raises will make North Carolina a regional leader and encourage the best and brightest teachers to make a long-term commitment to their profession, our students and our state.”
The Senate proposal would repeal the automatic loss of tenure in 2018 and instead offer teachers a choice of whether to maintain that status. Teachers who decide to work on annual contracts for the 2014-15 school year would move to the new pay scale and receive the substantial salary increase. Those who choose to keep tenure would remain on the current pay schedule.
“We appreciate the feedback we’ve heard from our teachers on the need for a pay increase and the desire for a choice on tenure,” said Senate Majority Whip Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph), co-chair of the Senate Education Committee. “We are pleased to be able to come forward with a solution that addresses both of these concerns.”
The plan would also provide an additional $39 million for pay raises for other public school employees. It matches the governor’s proposal to provide principals and other school administrators with an average two percent increase. And non-instructional public school employees would receive a $500 flat raise.
“By ensuring over 90 percent of dollars for public school pay raises go directly to teachers, we are prioritizing those who have the greatest impact on student performance and providing a major incentive for them to stay in the classroom,” said Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson), co-chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education/Higher Education.
“Under this plan, for the first time in state history, our public school teachers will now have an opportunity to make more than administrators,” said Sen. Dan Soucek (R-Watauga), co-chair of the Senate Education Committee.
Finally, the proposal fulfills the commitment state leaders made earlier this year to extend supplemental pay for teachers with Master’s degrees to those who have completed at least one course in a graduate program as of July 1, 2013. And it expands opportunities for local school systems to recognize and reward top performers by allocating funds for up to 35 percent of teachers to receive pay for excellence increases.
Senate Republicans pledged to pay for the raises with recurring revenue sources and without a tax hike.
“This year’s Senate budget funds this record teacher pay raise and $500 million in total pay increases to public school personnel on a permanent basis without a tax increase,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown (R-Onslow), co-chair of the Senate Appropriations/ Base Budget Committee.
State Supt. June Atkinson’s response on budget:
STATE SUPT. JUNE ATKINSON’S RESPONSE TO THE SENATE BUDGET PROPOSAL
The Senate budget presented today would provide teachers with a pay increase (average of 11 percent) that is long overdue. This is vital for North Carolina to be competitive with other states that increasingly recruit North Carolina teachers with higher pay and better support. But this increase comes at a significant cost. Teachers who accept the new pay structure will forfeit their due process rights, sometimes called tenure or career status.
At the same time, School Building Administration salary schedules have been separated from the teacher salary schedules and have no change from the 2013-14 schedules. Personnel on these schedules would be treated in the same manner as proposed by the Governor (a step increase, average of 2 percent).
All other school level and central office employees will receive a $500 annual raise (compared to the state employee raises of $809).
Apart from pay, this budget continues to undercut support for teachers and for learning.
In this budget, teacher assistant positions will be cut in half. Textbook funding, at less than $15 per child, will stay at that ineffective level. No improvements are in sight for instructional supplies or technology funding. State funding for local school district central offices – the funds that go to ensure local teachers and principals are paid and have the resources they need – will be cut by 5 percent. The school transportation general fund appropriation has been reduced by $28.6 million, and those funds have been replaced by the highway fund receipts that supported driver training. This adjustment will require either the elimination of driver training or a significant reduction to school bus operations, or both. The Department of Public Instruction is slated for a 30 percent cut. Grades 2 and 3 teacher allotments will remain at 1 teacher per 18 students rather than be reduced to 1:17 as funded last year.
These cuts will eliminate essential services for teachers and schools and leave teachers with more duties and less support. At elementary schools, the loss of teacher assistants means less time for teachers to teach and more time on bathroom duty, lunch duty and bus duty, not to mention the loss of an extra instructional assistant in the classroom.
The dismal state of textbook, technology and instructional supplies funding means that teachers will have fewer resources to work with as they develop lessons and assignments. More teachers will reach into their own pockets for classroom supplies. There will be less professional development, less support to help them understand what they are supposed to be teaching, less help with innovative ideas, fewer services for schools that are low performing, and fewer people to seek and secure grants and other opportunities for school improvements.
Teachers need raises to keep them in classrooms, but we should not burden them with more responsibilities that are now done by NCDPI and other local support personnel. We cannot continue to ask students to do without textbooks and instructional supplies.
North Carolina deserves better than this. We can improve teacher pay and strengthen important support for our teachers, students and schools. The key to teacher recruitment and retention is pay plus working conditions. Student success requires both.