State Superintendent Dr. June Atkinson, perhaps in response to lawmakers’ call for action , called on members of the State Board of Education to consider enacting a policy change that would allow teachers who receive master’s degrees in spring 2014 to receive supplemental pay for furthering their education.
The General Assembly passed a budget last month that eliminates supplemental pay for master’s degrees beginning with the 2014-15 academic year. All those who have received master’s degrees before that time would be grandfathered in.
The law is vague, however, in terms of when the cutoff date is for grandfathering in 2014 master’s degree recipients.
Rep. Rick Glazier was under the impression  that teachers who graduate by June 30, 2014 would be able to get on the master’s degree salary schedule before the pay supplements are phased out.
Thanks to a policy previously enacted by the State Board of Education, however, salary schedules start and end on April 1, so teachers who wish to be grandfathered in must complete their degrees prior to April 1.
Most spring graduations do not take place before May, which means many teachers who are in the middle of their coursework and scheduled to graduate next spring would not see an increase in pay, even though they were promised a salary increase of anywhere between 10 and 15 percent when they began their programs.
At the August State Board of Education meeting, Atkinson called on Board members to rectify this situation during their September meeting by changing the policy so that all teachers who finish their master’s degrees in the spring of 2014 will receive supplemental master’s pay.
Members expressed support for the motion, and Chairman Bill Cobey said that he hoped to be able to ask the Governor to consider ways to grandfather everyone into the law who has already begun a master’s degree program, regardless of expected graduation date. Cobey also said it was unfair to penalize those who had already started their programs.
At the September meeting a fiscal note will be provided to Board members so they will be able to see the cost associated with making this policy change.
Educators have expressed concern that eliminating master’s degree supplemental pay will be another reason for teachers to leave the state for locales that pay higher salaries. North Carolina ranks 46th in the nation in teacher pay.
CJ Flay is a teacher at North Iredell MS in Olin, NC. He emailed NC Policy Watch a copy of the letter below that is addressed to his former graduate school professors at Appalachian State University. The letter details Flay’s disappointment and concerns with eliminating master’s degree pay for teachers.
To my Graduate School Professors at Appalachian State University,
I am, as I am sure you are, upset over the decision by the state to stop paying the 10% increase to teachers who earn a Master’s after April 1, 2014.
As a husband and father of 3, the pay increase, though not the only reason, was one of the primary reasons I went to ASU to earn my Master’s degree. In the Instructional Technology program I learned many things I use in my classroom on a daily basis. I am fortunate I graduated in December 2008 and earned the pay increase though I am having difficulty repaying my student loans due to the pay freeze.
With the current decision to stop paying for Master’s degrees I know I would never have gone on to pursue my degree if that decision had been made prior to my start in August 2006. My students would have been the ones to ultimately suffer by the lack of current technology education they would have received in the computer classes I teach.
My wife is an ESL teacher and has made the decision not to pursue a Master’s degree based on the cost and the fact it will not significantly help her advance in her career now. My oldest son is currently an App student in the undergrad teaching program. We were severely disappointed when North Carolina did away with the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Scholarship program. He will not be going on to get his Master’s in NC as we have counseled him to move to any other state that values their public school teachers and work on it there.
Please don’t take this as a letter of condemnation of your excellent teaching programs but merely another sign of how poor public education policy has become in the “Great State of North Carolina.”
Charles J. Flay (CJ)