Commentary

More fuzzy math from leaders on teacher pay

fuzzy-math-300x225In case you missed it, one of this morning’s “must reads” is a story posted late yesterday by WRAL reporter Mark Binker about the ongoing controversy over North Carolina’s muddled and troubled new teacher pay plan.  As Binker reports:

When Gov. Pat McCrory wrote to welcome teachers back to the classroom, he touted a “substantial” pay raise that amounted to “an average pay increase of 5.5 percent for teachers.”

That might have been exciting news, except that legislative leaders have been touting a 7 percent average pay raise for more than a month now. House Speaker Thom Tillis trumpets that 7 percent figures as “simple math” in a recent campaign ad for his U.S. Senate campaign.

For educators like Michelle Pettey, a first-grade teacher at Wake County’s Brier Creek Elementary School, that “simple math” doesn’t add up; 5.5 percent doesn’t equal 7 percent and neither number matches the smaller-than-expected pay bump that showed up in her first paycheck of the year.

“No teacher can figure out what happened,” said Pettey, a teacher with 16 years in the classroom who said her actual raise worked out to be something like 1.39 percent over last year’s salary. The single mom whose own kinds are in the school system says she has friends outside the profession who ask her why teachers are complaining about a 7 percent raise.

According to Binker’s story, the confusing new plan has even left one of the state’s most powerful politicians — Senate Rules Committee chairman Tom Apodaca — confused.

“If I’m being told one thing by one group, and another thing by another group, I’m going to scratch my head,” concedes Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, the No. 2 leader in the state Senate. He said that everything he’s ever seen on the pay raise tells him its a 7 percent average hike, not the 5.5 percent raise listed by the governor.

“I don’t know where the governor is getting his numbers,” Apodaca said, adding, “It wouldn’t be the first time I didn’t agree with what was coming out of the governor’s office, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.”

The bottom line: Both the Governor and House Speaker Tillis need to stop making misleading statements about teacher pay. Moreover, if if either had any integrity on the matter, they’d admit their error and promise to fix the mess they’ve helped create along with Apodaca’s boss, Senator Phil Berger, the very next time the General Assembly convenes.

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