Reaching a compromise

Proposed state budget includes teacher raises
Aug. 01, 2014 @ 12:12 AM

North Carolina teachers could be getting the raises they have been waiting for.

A state committee agreed on a $21.3 billion compromise budget Wednesday that included an average of 7 percent increases to teachers’ pay and preserves teacher assistant positions at a cost of $282 million.

Discussion of pulling from the North Carolina Education Lottery and decreasing Medicare reimbursements — the budget includes a 1-percent cut — have been proposed to accommodate it.

The compromise has yet to be approved by both chambers or signed by Gov. Pat McCrory.

Vance County Board of Education member Ed Wilson said he was happy teachers could see raises, and he hopes nothing else — such as teacher tenure — suffers in the process.

“That is as good as you can hope for as it is,” he said. “If we can preserve that and get a 7-percent raise, then I think that’s a good commitment coming from the state.”

The spending plan could supply teachers in their first four years of experience with a pay increase from the current starting salary of $30,800 to $33,000. Teacher pay would be capped annually at $50,000 after 25 years in the field.

Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, told The Associated Press the budget’s teacher assistant allotment is planned to remain the same, but $65 million of its budget already used for teacher pay could be formally transferred.

Teachers in North Carolina are among the lowest paid in the nation and haven’t received a raise in about seven years. But Berger told reporters it could raise North Carolina’s teacher salaries to 32nd in the nation from 46th.

In May, McCrory announced his plans for teacher raises, which left many Vance County educators skeptical about whether that could happen.

The district pays some of the lowest salary supplements in North Carolina. For example, Wake County teachers have more than 15 percent of their salary supplemented — starting at about $5,000 — compared to Vance County’s $2,500 supplement.

Vance County Schools lost more than 22 percent of its teachers ending the 2012-2013 school year — and half of them remained in education elsewhere, according to the annual report in Teachers Leaving the Profession.

Wilson said the district has to supplement the county’s allotment every year to pay supplements because commissioners do not provide complete funding for them.

“They raised the budget for social services, but they keep the same budget for the schools and teachers,” he said.

The state’s proposed budget also includes $800,000 in vouchers for students to attend select private or religious schools and maintains funding for public universities.

Vance County Schools is currently operating under an interim budget.

District spokeswoman Terri Hedrick said she is hopeful a state budget will be approved soon so the district can move forward.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

Contact the writer at dhairston@hendersondispatch.com.