Teacher pay is at the heart of the 2015 budget negotiations right now—and if you’re wondering why, consider this: in 64 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, a school system is that county’s largest employer.
WUNC reporters Dave DeWitt and Keith Weston put together a fascinating infographic  that highlights this reality, noting that in 24 more counties, the school system is the second-largest employer. In only 12 counties are school systems not in the top two.
Why is this so important?
Well, after the General Assembly’s session last summer, legislators went home and likely heard from many of the employees (i.e. teachers) who worked for the single largest employer (the school system) in that legislator’s district. That political pressure clearly changed some minds regarding teacher raises, especially in an election year.
But a raise for teachers also has a longer-lasting impact beyond November.
If you think of a raise as an economic stimulus, more money in the pay checks of 95,000 teachers (spread out from Manteo to Murphy) will mean more middle-class people buying groceries, going on vacations, etc. And that will have a real, immediate economic impact on the state as a whole.
Lawmakers continue to work through a budget stalemate that is heading in the direction of providing teachers with a pay raise of somewhere between 6 and 8 percent — the first significant salary increase in six years.
But the General Assembly could end up paying for that raise by laying off thousands of teacher assistants who not only provide much needed services in the classroom, but outside of it too — many of them double as school bus drivers .