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McCrory’s evolving education innovation fund

Gov. Pat McCrory called a meeting of his Education Cabinet this week to discuss its working groups’ latest findings and policy recommendations [1] in anticipation of the spring 2014 legislative session.

Earlier this summer, McCrory announced his intention to use $30 million of Race to the Top money for an Education Innovation Fund [2] that would reward 1,000 top teachers with $10,000 stipends. The proposal was met with criticism by State Board of Education members at a meeting shortly after his announcement.

North Carolina ranks 46th in teacher pay and its 95,000+ teachers have not received meaningful raises during the past seven years.

Education cabinet members heard once again about the Education Innovation Fund from Eric Guckian, McCrory’s education advisor, during a discussion about branding North Carolina’s education system. The fund was mentioned very briefly and in the context of a “Teacher Empowerment Network,” which includes the following goals:

NC Policy Watch reached out to Guckian’s office to get some clarifying details. Are they still planning to pursue the $10,000 stipends for the top 1,000 teachers in the state? Will this money come from Race to the Top funds?

Erin Gray, Guckian’s assistant, explained to NC Policy Watch that this is an evolving process.

“The goal of the Governor’s Teacher Empowerment Network is the same as the Innovation Fund was, to get the money in teachers’ pockets,” said Gray. “However, the process of how the teachers receive this money is different.  We want to be able to reward as many teachers as possible with this network and produce innovated, master, leader teachers to not only benefit from the extra pay, but will be active to reform schools and lead other teachers.”

Who will receive this money and how many teachers will receive it still remains unclear. Gray also said that not all of the funds will come from Race to the Top. “The total $30 million is not coming from RttT.  A portion of the total will, but not all.  We are still working on details.”

McCrory has also proposed that all teachers currently pursuing advanced degrees receive salary supplements that lawmakers removed from the budget this year. The Governor told State Board of Education members [3] that his staff found the money to extend the salary supplements, but couldn’t say where exactly they found the funds in the state budget.

McCrory has since reined in that proposal when the State Board of Education advised that they did not have the power to extend the salary supplements to all teachers pursuing advanced degrees – only to those who will graduate in Spring 2014.

State Board of Education Chair Bill Cobey said that paying the salary supplements to all teachers who were in the process of getting advanced degrees when the budget passed in July could be a goal of the 2014 legislative session.

During the education cabinet meeting, members also offered new strategic directions [1] and ideas for implementation in areas ranging from consolidating budgets across educational sectors to addressing talent and workforce development.

The education cabinet, which comprises the leaders of each education sector in the state, also includes the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Aldona Wos, who was absent from Wednesday’s meeting and sent a staffer in her place. The Department of Health and Human Services has administered the NC Pre-K program since 2011, when the general assembly moved it there from DPI.

The next meeting of the education cabinet will take place on October 30.