GOP seeks higher NC teacher pay

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 10, 2014

RALEIGH (AP) — Gov. Pat McCrory and other Republican leaders will propose a higher minimum salary for North Carolina’s least experienced public school teachers today as part of a long-awaited proposal designed to improve morale and retention.
The plan, detailed in a document obtained by the Associated Press, would in part ensure all public school teachers make a base salary of at least $33,000 during the 2014-15 school year and at least $35,000 the following year.
McCrory, Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest planned to make “a major education policy announcement” this morning at Ragsdale High School in Guilford County, where McCrory attended in the 1970s. McCrory’s office declined to provide additional details, but legislators have said a pay announcement would come this week.
Not counting local supplements, North Carolina’s public school teachers with zero to five years of experience currently make a base salary of $30,800. Teachers have had one experience-based salary increase since the 2008-09 school year, and that increase was 1.2 percent in 2012. Teachers with six and seven years of experience currently earn a base salary of less than $33,000. At least 24,000 teachers would benefit from the increase, according to the document explaining the pay proposal.
The new salary floors are estimated to cost roughly $200 million over the two years, the document said. The General Assembly would have to approve any plan before it goes to McCrory’s desk, but a scene of Republican unity Monday could signal an increase that will almost assuredly occur during this election year.
The salary proposal would equate to a 7.1 percent increase for the next school year for those with bachelor’s degrees currently at the bottom of the teacher pay schedule. Going from $33,000 to $35,000 would be another 6 percent increase.
North Carolina was ranked 47th during 2012-13 among the states for average starting salaries, according to the National Education Association. The $35,000 minimum would vault North Carolina into the middle of those rankings and near the top of the list for Southeastern rivals.
While in charge of the legislature, Democrats and later Republicans blamed the lack of pay raises on the Great Recession and the slowing recovery producing anemic state revenues.
This past year McCrory and GOP legislative leaders said a Medicaid shortfall approaching $500 million siphoned away funds. Critics of Republicans say the lack of a pay raises reinforced what they called the GOP’s drive to harm public education in North Carolina.
McCrory and lawmakers have said they’re committed to passing teacher raises during this year’s legislative session. The governor formed a teacher advisory committee to receive input. Other organizations also have chimed in with options.
The governor and legislative leaders have said they want to reward teachers for classroom performance. McCrory also said last year he wanted to tweak a law phasing out higher pay for advance degrees so that teachers seeking a master’s degree would still get a salary bump even if they don’t finish before this spring.