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House leaders discuss teacher pay on eve of educators big march and rally

House leaders discuss teacher pay raises during a press conference Wednesday, April 30.

North Carolina teachers would receive a 4.8 percent pay raise in the first year of the House’s education budget released by state Republican leaders Tuesday.

Assistant principals would see a 6.3 percent pay increase and principals a 10 percent raise in the first year of the two-year spending plan set to go before the full House later this week.

Most non-certified staff would get a 1 percent raise or $500, depending on which is greater.

The teacher pay raises would push the average teacher salary to $55,600, House leaders said.

After six consecutive years of teacher pay raises, the average teacher salary in North Carolina is $53,975 a year. That’s good for 29th in the nation, according the National Education Association.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s released his two-year spending plan in March. It calls for a 9.1 percent pay increase for teachers over two-years.

Meanwhile, House leaders said tweaks to the teacher pay scale under their budget favors veteran educators who have been promised for decades their salaries would be brought up to the national average.

Teachers who reach Step 30 on the pay scale would earn a base salary of $60,500, if the House’s version of the budget is approved. Lawmakers said that would push veteran teachers over the national average.

“Those teachers who have been promised that basically their entire working career will now actually see that in their base pay,” said Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, (R-Wilkes), a teacher who co-chairs the House K-12 Education Committee.

The teacher pay raise proposal was rolled out a day before thousands of teachers and their supporters come to Raleigh to demand increased public school funding and Medicaid expansion.

The spending plan meets only one of the five demands made by the N.C. Association of Educators, and that is to restore extra pay for teachers who hold advanced degrees.

House Speaker Tim Moore, (R-Cleveland), said lawmakers will take a break from noon to 2 p.m., to meet with educators and others in town to participate in the teacher march and rally.

“That will give folks a couple of hours for lunch but also time to meet with folks who have come here from around the state,” Moore said.

In addition to making good on broken promises, Elmore said salary adjustments for veteran teachers are designed to keep them on the job.

“We have some retention issues dealing with year 26 and above,” Elmore said. “What that tells you is that teachers are choosing to roll their days into service and retire early.”

Elmore said lawmakers and educators are concerned about the loss of veteran teachers, particularly in hard-to-recruit, rural parts of the state.

“We need to do everything we can to retain them because it’s quite difficult to recruit younger folks into those areas of the state,” Elmore said.

Earlier state teacher retention efforts focused on starting pay for beginning teachers who were leaving the state and profession in droves due to low pay.

The state is doing a better job retaining young teachers, but House leaders want to create two programs to allow small county school districts and low-wealth district to offer signing bonuses to beginning teachers.

For every dollar the school district puts into the program, the state would match up to $1,000 per teacher. So, a beginning teacher could receive a signing bonus of up to $2,000.

If a school district is located in a small county and is also considered a low-wealth district, teachers could receive a signing bonuses of up to $4,000.

Base pay for principals would also improve. Their pay would be linked to school size, and also to the teacher pay scale.

“In the future, any increases that happen to the teacher scale will happen to the principal scale,” Elmore said. “You don’t need them competing against one another for compensation. It links them together so all ships rise at the same time in the future.”

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