Education

N.C. House spending proposal gets two thumbs down

Mark Jewell, president of the N.C. Association of Educators, said Thursday that the two-year spending plan proposed by the House leadership is “completely inadequate.’

Jewell comments come one day after thousands of teachers marched to the state legislature to demand more funding for public schools.

“Not only does this budget fail to raise the minimum wage of our lowest-paid educators, but the proposed pay scales are nothing more than a shell game designed for political expediency at the expense of solving actual educational needs, necessitated by the continued tax cuts on businesses and wealthy individuals,” Jewell said. “In short, this budget fails our educators, our students, and our communities, and NCAE cannot support it.”

Increasing the minimum wage to $15 for all school employees was one of the five demands the NCAE presented to lawmakers in advance of Wednesday’s protest march.

The House leadership countered with a 1 percent or $500 pay increase, whichever is greater, for non-certified staff such as bus drivers, custodians, teacher assistants and cafeteria workers.

The proposed budget, which cleared the House appropriations committee on Wednesday and is set for a full House vote Friday, calls for an average 4.6 percent pay increase for teachers.

It was immediately criticized by educators because teachers wouldn’t see the pay increase in the checks until Jan.1. Ordinarily, teachers would see a pay raise in their first checks of the new school year.

House leaders said earlier this week that the new pay scale for 2020 would favor veteran teachers, those with 15 years or more of experience.

Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, (R-Wilkes), a teacher who co-chairs the House K-12 Education Committee, said the new pay scale would help to keep veteran teachers 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 the emphasis on veteran teachers would benefit school districts 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.

Gov. Roy Cooper also criticized House leaders’ budget proposal, contending that it favors corporate tax cuts over “strong teacher pay raises.”

“What’s worse is Republican leaders touted these raises when the teachers were in town while deliberately hiding the fact that their raises were only for half a year,” Cooper said. “Only after the teachers left did they find out the Republicans pulled another fast one on them. Our public schools deserve better.”

Cooper released his $25.2 billion state budget proposal in March. It calls for an average 9.1 percent pay raise for teaches over the next 10 years.

The House spending plan comes in at nearly $24 billion.

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