Teacher advocates demand details on Senate pay plan

Senate President Phil Berger

Senate President Phil Berger

Last week, state Senate President Phil Berger trumpeted the announcement that his chamber’s budget proposal will include sizable raises for teachers.

Now, with Senate leaders reportedly preparing to announce “highlights” of their budget plan this afternoon, progressive groups like Progress N.C. Action are calling for answers on how Berger and Senate GOP leaders plan to pay for raises that would, according to Berger, lift the state’s teacher pay to first in the southeast.

The group issued a statement Tuesday casting doubt on Berger’s “big claims.”

“Sen. Berger has a history of making dubious budget promises that don’t stand up to reality when the full details are released, and this just looks like more of the same,” said Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC Action, in the statement. “Given the Senate’s track record of using smoke and mirrors to hide their cuts to public education, Sen. Berger’s claims about the budget should be treated with extreme skepticism.”

From the Progress N.C. statement:

2015 Senate Budget:  Harry Brown claimed during Sen. Berger’s budget announcement that the Senate budget contained no substantial cuts. But because the budget announcement only included favorable highlights, reporters didn’t learn until later that the Senate budget would also have fired 8,500 teachers across the state.

2014 Senate Budget: Berger promised an 11% pay raise for teachers, but didn’t mention that the raise was contingent on stripping away career status from veteran teachers and firing every teacher assistant in the state.

2014 Final Budget: Berger claimed it would give teachers their “largest pay raise in state history” — but the claim was found to be completely false once the details were released. In fact, many veteran teachers received raises as low as 0.025%.

2014 Final Budget: Berger claimed it would raise North Carolina’s average teacher salary from 46th in the nation to 32nd — which also turned out to be completely false. In fact, North Carolina’s average teacher pay only rose to 42nd in the nation.

Progress N.C. wasn’t the only group to suggest the GOP teacher pay plan amounts to little more than electioneering.

Rodney Ellis, president of the N.C. Association of Educators, which represents teachers at the General Assembly, told reporters that the “devil is in the details” for Berger’s plan.

From Ellis’ statement:

“NCAE has consistently beaten the drum that for our students to be more successful, we must invest fully in our public schools by increasing the resources they have and by compensating educators as professionals. Now, because it’s an election year, Senate leaders are trying to play catch up from the destructive swath they created for our public schools. Under this regime, our teacher turnover is unacceptably high and teacher training programs face dangerously low enrollments. Last time there was a pay raise they promised it would get us to 32nd in the country and here we sit at 41st.”

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