As was expected Thursday, the North Carolina General Assembly approved in a party line vote a 3.9 percent teacher pay-raise that would be distributed over the next two years.
Republicans in the House and Senate voted in the favor of the pay raise while Democrats voted against it, many arguing that the proposed raise is too little.
In the House, the bill passed on a 62-26 vote with Democrats on the losing end. The margin in the Senate was closer. Twenty-eight Republicans voted in favor of the bill and 21 Democrats against.
“I’m not going to say $250 million [additional money for raises beyond what’s in the vetoed budget] is not a substantial investment,” said Rep. Darren Jackson, a Wake County Democrat. “What I will say, it’s not good enough.”
Non-instructional staff such as clerical assistants and custodians would also get a 2% boost in pay under the legislation now headed to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk where it’s expected to receive a chilly reception.
Cooper tweeted earlier Thursday that he believes the proposed raises are insufficient.
“Republican leaders hold teachers hostage. Demand sweeping corporate tax breaks and their entire bad budget in exchange for paltry teacher pay raises that are less than other state employees. Like kidnappers wanting ALL the ransom $$ and still not letting victims go.” Cooper tweeted.
Senate leader Phil Berger quickly responded in a tweet of his own: “This is false. Nobody should accept this as true. The teacher raise bill provides a 3.9% raise no matter what happens with the rest of the budget. Misleading the public is unacceptable. #ncpol”
Cooper proposed an 8.5 % teacher pay raise as a budget compromise in July.
Rep. Cynthia Ball, a Democrat from Wake County, touted that compromise during a House budget debate Thursday, contending the governor’s plan would keep North Carolina competitive in the recruitment and retention of quality teachers.
“Competitive, not at the top of the national pay scale but competitive,” Ball said.
But Michael Speciale, a Republican from Craven County, said it’s “nonsense” to argue that the pay raise supported by the GOP is inadequate.
“We’re sitting here at the end of October, going into November because we have a stalemate because people are scared to vote their conscious because we have a governor running roughshod over them and we want to sit here and debate that his bill, which spends $250,000 to give teachers and employees a pay raise is not good enough,” Speciale said.
Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, a Wilkes County Republican and veteran educator, said the stalemate between Democrats and Republicans over teacher pay has had the effect of freezing pay for thousands of North Carolina educators.
“They’ve [teachers] got reality,” Elmore said. “They’ve got to pay bills. They’re expecting money.”
Mark Jewell, president of the N.C. Association of Educators, has called the Republican pay proposal “wildly insulting to educators.”
Jewell issued this statement Thursday afternoon:
“The miniscule pay increase offered in the educator pay proposal just passed by the General Assembly is an outrageous affront to the professionalism of every educator in our state, be they a teacher, an Education Support Professional, or a retiree. It is incomprehensible that Republican leadership would think educators could be pressured into taking such an inadequate offer, and we stand with the governor in opposition to this legislation.”