North Carolina schools chief renews call for comprehensive teacher pay plan

Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

North Carolina’s final budget this year may have included modest raises for teachers, but the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson renewed her calls Thursday for an improved “comprehensive teacher pay plan.”

Atkinson, speaking on a panel at an education conference organized by the N.C. Chamber of Commerce, again pitched her “wedding cake” teacher pay plan, which included competitive raises for teachers at the base.

The upper layers of the cake, according to Atkinson, would include additional sweeteners for designated teaching leaders in the school and others who step in to assist at low-performing schools.

Atkinson also talked of a $4.7 million investment in this year’s budget  geared toward a statewide digital learning plan which provides support for teachers.

“All of these work together to show teachers that we value and respect them,” Atkinson said.

The conference brought together various education leaders, at the K-12 and university levels, as well as business leaders in the state.

Atkinson also touted state partnerships with business leaders such as a middle school work program that helps students learn the keys to being a good employee, as well as a teacher summer work program placing educators in businesses.

The latter program is used to help teachers develop lesson plans to make students job-ready, she said, with the goal of making every student graduate with work experience.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Atkinson added.

As expected, the theme throughout the morning and afternoon was students’ job-readiness, and a growing gap between educators and employers when it comes to expectations for future employees.

To that end, another of Thursday’s panelists, top UNC System advisor Peter Hans, pledged renewed cooperation between the system and the state’s community colleges system under new President Margaret Spellings, calling Spellings an “education reformer.”

Atkinson also pitched increased state spending on early childhood education in North Carolina, calling it “one of the best investments North Carolina can make.”

“For every dollar we invest in preschool, we see a return on that investment,” said Atkinson.

Thursday’s conference also included a panel of local school leaders who’ve won awards from state business leaders. The panel included Bobbie Cavnar, a Gaston County English teacher who was awarded the Burroughs Wellcome Fund’s North Carolina Teacher of the Year.

Cavnar said the biggest inhibitor to classroom success in the state is a dearth of “basic, basic resources,” such as binders, markers and writing utensils. The state is also lacking so-called “wraparound resources,” such as guidance counselors to help address root causes of impoverished students’ struggles.

Melody Chalmers, a Cumberland County principal tapped as Wells Fargo’s Principal of the Year, said one of her greatest challenges is in hiring quality teachers, a frequent complaint about school leaders in recent years amidst reported teacher shortages.


One Comment

  1. Natalie ONeill

    August 20, 2016 at 9:27 am

    All teachers need compensation and pay raises that are fair and reflect the cost of living. All teachers work in an environment that that helps educate students and need to provide what they need. Not all teachers are chosen as leaders , even though well qualified, as not enough positions are available. The PE teacher that teaches 45 kids in a class at a regular public school is just as in need of fair pay as a teacher who teaches in a low income area. Teachers are in the low income bracket and our kids go to public school as well. Many teachers have students with a variety of special needs and have no training or help in dealing with these students during a class period. Benefits have been cut for teachers, longevity pay, health benefits and raises have been cut dramatically. The teachers also had a retro active pay CUT several years ago. Every year it changes and this election year so many lies have been running on TV about average teacher pay. NC should be accountable for paying the employees who work for the state fairly. It is so out of control but what really struck me about the article was that only teachers who have leadership roles and teach in low income areas deserve more money. Absurd.

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