Education

Gov. Roy Cooper offers to meet with GOP to negotiate teacher pay raises

A day after Senate Republicans approved legislation to give North Carolina principals a 6.2 percent average pay raise, Gov. Roy Cooper went on the offense by sharing a letter he sent to GOP leaders last week offering to negotiate teacher pay raises.

Gov. Roy Cooper

In the letter to Sen. President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim More, Cooper said he’s willing to negotiate teacher pay raises “independent of other elements of the budget.”

Cooper vetoed the budget largely because Republicans wouldn’t agree to Medicaid expansion.

“I’ve offered to negotiate teacher pay raises separately from the rest of the budget so that hardworking teachers can finally get the raises they deserve, and it’s disappointing that Republican leaders have not accepted my offer,” Cooper said. “Teachers shouldn’t be caught up in Raleigh politics while other state employees get raises.”

Berger responded to Cooper’s offer to negotiate teacher pay raises in a tweet.

“Why don’t you [Cooper] stop with the grandstanding and come on over here so we can cut a deal,” Berger wrote. “If you dropped your Medicaid expansion ultimatum, we could work something out this week.”

Cooper has been critical of the so-called “mini budgets” the Republican-led General Assembly has been passing as part of the GOP strategy to get around Cooper’s veto.

“Should you choose to stay on your current path to pursue a mini budget to raise the salaries of public educators, it is important that we work together to find a compromise to avoid further delay in much-needed raises for these educators,” Cooper wrote.

Cooper’s proposed an 8.5% teacher pay raise as a budget compromise in July, but Republicans have proposed 3.8% raises for teachers, which is less than what other state employees have been given.

“Democratic members of the General Assembly and I have been clear that the raises proposed in HB 966 for these educators are insufficient to keep our state competitive in recruiting and retaining teachers for our students,” Cooper said, referring to the 2019-2020 budget bill.

In addition to pay raises and performance bonuses for principals, the legislation approved by the Senate provides “step increases” for teachers. Step increases are annual $1,000 pay increases given to all teachers with less than 15 years experience.

The Senate also approved legislation to give salary increases for UNC system and community college employees. House approval is needed for the principal pay raises, step increases and higher education pay raises.

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