Teachers unhappy with pay plan

Aug. 06, 2014 @ 05:26 PM

Many veteran teachers were expecting to make a maximum of $50,000 under the new budget.

Susan Fletcher, a teacher at Aycock Elementary School, was one of them.

She is entering her 31st year of teaching, and was told either her pay was going down or it would stay the same.

“What does that say?” she said. “Veteran teachers are not appreciated.”

State Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, released a statement Monday with the official pay scale, aiming to set the record straight.

According to the release, everyone would get a raise despite what the North Carolina Association of Educators and others have said.

“Last week the General Assembly passed a budget providing North Carolina’s public school teachers the largest pay raise in state history and propelling North Carolina from near the bottom to 32nd in national rankings,” Berger said in the release. “It’s unfortunate that instead of celebrating this historic advancement, the NCAE and others are spreading false rumors in an effort to mislead the public and our educators.”

Legislators approved a $21 billion budget with salary increases ranging from about $100 a year to a little less than $6,000.

Teachers with the biggest pay jump are entering their fifth year — a pay increase of $5,700; the next highest are those transitioning from year nine to 10 for an increase of $5,550.

Veteran teachers with 31 years experience or more will get a $1,000 raise.

Those entering their 30th year and newly eligible for retirement will receive about a $133 pay increase, bringing their salaries to $50,000 — about $500 less than what 30th year teachers received last year.

The raises cost the state about $282 million.

Teachers, regardless of experience, want more pay for their veteran peers.

Lawanda Wilkerson, who is entering her second year teaching at E.O. Young Elementary School ¬— and eligible for a $2,200 pay increase — said those who have taught longer deserved more.

“They don’t realize the pressure we deal with on a regular basis,” she said. “At least give them something to look forward to. We have already lost a lot of teachers to Texas.”

The district in Houston, Texas, recently held recruitment drives targeting North Carolina educators dissatisfied with their pay.

The North Carolina budget also breaks down longevity pay for those with more than 10 years of teaching experience. The lump sum received at the end of the school year will now be wrapped into salaries.

Hollie Powell, who is entering her 36th year as a teacher in Vance County, said she used her longevity pay — about $2,300, according to the pay schedule — to help pay for her children’s tuition.

She said an equal raise should have been given to everyone, instead of trying to attract and award new teachers.

“It’s age discrimination,” she said. “There is no guarantee that a teacher will stay no matter how much you pay them.”

Jessica Cunning, who has taught at various schools in Vance County going on eight years — making her eligible for about a $4,000 pay increase — said she needs proof she will get anything.

“I won’t believe it until I see it on my paycheck,” she said. “Right now I don’t believe anything they say.”

Aside from teacher pay, the budget allots funds to help out in the classrooms, as well.

Nearly $42 million will be spent to add about 760 teaching positions, reducing kindergarten classes to 18 students per teacher and the student-teacher ratio of first-grade classrooms down to 17.

The budget also:

• Eliminates funding for the Teaching Fellows program, which gives college scholarships to students working as educators.

• Sets up an education endowment fund to collect donations that would be used to increase teacher pay.

• Provides $840,000 to expand the Opportunity Scholarship Grants program scheduled to start this year for students to attend private or religious schools, increasing funding for the program to $10.8 million.

• Restores $11.8 million that lawmakers last year took away to account for lower public school enrollment as about 2,400 students used a new voucher program to move to private or religious schools.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

Contact the writer at dhairston@hendersondispatch.com.