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Rowan-Salisbury teachers to get raise under budget proposals

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

The N.C. Senate passed its version of the state budget on Thursday, and its version of teacher pay raises does not quite match up with a proposal passed by the House in May.

Regardless, Rowan-Salisbury School System teachers are likely to get a pay raise in the 2015-2016 school year, according to local legislators. Teacher assistants, however, are a different story.

The legislature’s two proposals give pay raises to most teachers. Teachers across North Carolina with up to four years of experience would make at least $35,000 per year. The House’s budget gives teachers with more experience a larger pay increase than the Senate’s budget. The Senate’s budget, which passed 30-19, includes larger raises than the House for teachers with less experience.

Experience is just one factor in the salaries of Rowan-Salisbury School System teachers. Local supplements bolster annual pay by a couple thousand dollars.

Once local pay supplements are included, “A” teachers — those with a bachelor’s degree — would start out making $37,000 per year in both proposals. The most experienced teachers with a bachelor’s degree in the Rowan-Salisbury School System would receive at least $53,350 per year in the House’s proposal and $52,350 per year in the Senate’s proposal.

The final state salary numbers will be decided after both legislative bodies sort out differences on teacher pay and other issues, said Sen. Andrew Brock, R-34.

“There will be some give and take,” Brock said. “I don’t think one plan is going to win out, because each one is a little bit different. I think the final amounts will meet somewhere in the middle.”

Rowan-Salisbury School System Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody said the pay raises are “absolutely critical,” and the school system is looking to increase its annual teacher supplements, which start at $2,000. Larger school systems are able to offer thousands more in annual supplements.

Like the state legislature, the Rowan-Salisbury School System will have to do some number crunching. About 100 teachers in the school system are not paid through state funds, and instead are paid completely through local funds allocated by the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. Locally funded teachers will see the same pay increase as state-funded teachers, according to School Board Chairman Josh Wagner.

Unlike the House version, the Senate’s budget would cut thousands of teacher assistant positions across the state. The goal, Brock said, is to add more teacher positions, and subsequently decrease class sizes. It’s a proposal local school system leaders aren’t sold on.

“Often, we play a shell game with education,” Moody said. “We just take money from one area and move it to the other. So, we’ll pay teachers more and cut teacher’s assistants. In that case, the percentage of how you’re spending your money isn’t valuing education more.”

Moody and Wagner said teacher assistants are vital in classrooms.

“They’re not just making copies or shuttling kids back and forth,” Wagner said.

Rep. Harry Warren, R-77, agreed with school officials.

“The mentality that they’re using to reduce the class size over the next two or three years by increasing the student-teacher ratio is to eliminate teacher assistants,” Warren said. “I don’t entirely agree with that, because the makeup of a class can still, regardless of its size, have the same demographics. That makes having some assistants absolutely critical.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246

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