North Carolina’s top education leader called on state legislators Monday to give teachers a break on personal income taxes.
State Superintendent June Atkinson, a Democrat elected to the statewide post, released a statement Monday afternoon asking that teachers be exempt from state income tax, in light of their low pay and cuts being given to what corporations pay in their taxes.
Neither the House nor Senate plans by Republican budget writers included teacher raises in their final $20.6 billion budget proposals but did have a $50 million plan in the House plan to give vouchers for low-income children to attend private schools and a Senate tax reform plan that would give significant tax cuts  to the state’s wealthiest residents.
Salary supplements for teachers with graduate degrees were also eliminated in the current budget proposals.
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory had included a modest 1 percent raise for all state workers in his budget proposal, but the legislature will have the final word on how state money is spent.
Teachers in North Carolina are among the worst paid in the nation — the starting salary for a teacher is $30,800 and it takes a teacher five years to reach more than $31,000 a year in salary, according to information from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. A report given to the State Board of Education in March found that North Carolina teacher pay was 46th in the nation  and only Mississippi and West Virginia paid less out of 10 states in the Southeast.
Here’s the full statement from Atkinson:
Much has been said about the need for North Carolina to become more competitive with our surrounding states when it comes to corporate income taxes. Those supporting a cut in corporate income taxes say that the reduction will attract more corporations and then we will have more jobs for North Carolinians.
I propose another reduction – exempt all public school teachers from having to pay any personal state income taxes. We lag behind South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi in what we pay our teachers. In fact, we rank 46th in teacher pay. The General Assembly proposed budgets do not include salary increases for teachers, but corporations expanding or locating in North Carolina certainly need workers who are educated – the work of teachers.
Let’s keep our competent teachers in North Carolina classrooms. Let’s position North Carolina to be a more attractive state for new teachers. Exempt them from paying personal state income taxes. That will at least give teachers more take-home money to support their families and will make North Carolina a little more competitive with our neighboring states.