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McCrory announces plan to give 450 teachers $10,000 bonuses with Race to the Top funds

GTN [1]This summer, approximately 450 teachers in North Carolina could receive $10,000 bonuses if they are selected for the Governor’s Teacher Network (GTN) [2], a federally funded initiative that will ask teachers to share their best work around instruction and professional development in exchange for a pay bump.

Gov. Pat McCrory, along with the NC Department of Public Instruction, established GTN with funds from the federal Race to the Top grant. Teachers who apply and are selected to participate in GTN will serve for one year as Race to the Top-aligned instructional and professional development experts, in addition to their normal teaching duties.

Applicants are expected to submit project proposals, which could include developing professional development sessions and materials, or creating unit plans, lesson plans and assessments for the state’s Home Base system, a suite of web-based technology tools designed to elevate teaching.

“The Governor’s Teacher Network is a fantastic opportunity for teacher leaders to offer their very best thinking and expertise to support their peers across the state,” said Gov. McCrory in a press release. “Their work will directly result in North Carolina teachers having access to more resources that will help them help students achieve at greater levels.  Best of all, these resources will be designed for NC teachers, by NC teachers.”

The proposal sounds similar to a plan McCrory floated last summer, when he announced his intention to use $30 million of Race to the Top funds for an Education Innovation Fund that would reward 1,000 top teachers with $10,000 stipends [3]. That proposal was met with criticism by State Board of Education members at a meeting shortly after his announcement.

In September, NC Policy Watch reached out to Gov. McCrory’s education advisor, Eric Guckian, to see if the Education Innovation Fund was on the table. While the name seemed to have changed by then, policymakers were still moving forward with the idea.

“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 Erin Gray, Guckian’s assistant. “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 innovative [sic], master, leader teachers to not only benefit from the extra pay, but will be active to reform schools and lead other teachers.”

Today’s announcement about the GTN comes at a time when the state’s entire teacher workforce has not received a raise since 2008, with the exception of a 1.2 percent pay increase in 2010. Recently ranked 46th in the nation in teacher pay [4] for the second year in a row, North Carolina is also dead last in teacher salary growth [5] over the past decade.

Gov. McCrory recently proposed boosting the base pay for beginning teachers up to $35,000 by 2015. Beginning teachers, who account for around 20 percent of the teaching workforce, have been stuck at the bottom of the salary schedule since 2008, making just $30,800 annually. McCrory characterized the proposal as a “first step” toward eventually helping all teachers.

Megan Moss, a young teacher who was grateful for McCrory’s proposed pay increase, recently told NC Policy Watch she would still rather all teachers get a raise.

“I work alongside a teacher who has 25 years of experience,” said Moss, a second-year elementary school math teacher in Washington County who would benefit from McCrory’s proposal. “She is invaluable in terms of the knowledge she passes on to me in the classroom. To think that the state doesn’t value her is just plain hurtful,” said Moss, who came to North Carolina from Georgia to pursue a teaching career.

It’s not clear whether or not the Governor’s Teacher Network will continue after the 2014-15 school year, and those who do receive the $10,000 bonuses should note that it does not appear to be a permanent pay raise.

Applications for the Governor’s Teacher Network are due April 21; teachers will be notified of selection no later than May 30. For more information, including selection criteria, click here [2].