Education, News

General Assembly bill: North Carolina schools should post “In God We Trust” in prominent location

Rep. Bert Jones, R-Caswell, Rockingham, filed a bill requiring schools to post “In God We Trust.”

North Carolina lawmakers began their “short” session this week with a flurry of filing activity, mostly centered on school safety but also delving into principal pay and whether or not schools should be forced to post the national motto, “In God We Trust,” on campus.

The latter bill, filed Thursday by several House Republicans, is likely to raise some eyebrows.

House Bill 965—co-sponsored by Bert Jones, Linda Johnson, Dean Arp and Phil Shepard—would require that public schools, including both traditional schools and charters, display the state and national mottoes in “at least one prominent location of each school, such as an entry way, cafeteria or other common area.”

The national motto is “In God We Trust.” The state motto, “Esse quam videri,” means “To Be, Rather Than To Seem” in Latin.

State House lawmakers, meanwhile, released a handful of bills that follow this year’s recommendations of  a school safety legislative panel. The committee met after a February school shooting in Parkland, Fla., touched off a wave of student-based activism, including calls for gun reforms in North Carolina.

As expected, the GOP lawmakers that led the panel will focus on school resource officers, peer counseling programs and threat assessment, rather than guns.

Among other things, the bills—filed by Republicans like House Majority Leader John Bell, David Lewis and John Torbett—would budget $1.8 million in grant funds for school resource officers in elementary and middle schools.

They would set state standards for school resource officer training and reporting while ordering the state to ready assessments of “facility vulnerability.”

And the panel’s legislation would direct publicly-funded traditional schools and charters—as well as private schools receiving state-funded vouchers—to develop school risk management plans, hold school safety exercises and provide details about their plans to local law enforcement.

Such provisions won’t spur controversy in the legislature, and are likely to be passed speedily.

Senate lawmakers also moved to address some critics’ concerns with a GOP-led, principal pay overhaul last year. Influential Republicans Jerry Tillman, a former school administrator, and David Curtis filed Senate Bill 718 Wednesday, which would extend “hold harmless” provisions for veteran administrators worried about impending pay cuts, a major point of contention for some district leaders and members of the State Board of Education.

GOP lawmakers moved last year to shift away from principal pay that’s based on years of experience and advanced degrees, instead determining pay according to school enrollment. Principals would also be eligible for  thousands of dollars in bonuses if students score higher on exams or they boost performance in a struggling school.

Critics of the Republican plan—which lifted base pay for new principals but may have yielded pay cuts for some veteran administrators—worried the new model would speed early retirements.

NCASA Executive Director Katherine Joyce said her organization supports the tweaks in the principal pay bill.

Katherine Joyce, executive director of the N.C. Association of School Administrators (NCASA), said the new bill addresses those concerns.

Joyce said the draft proposal would also create a new, three-year “hold harmless” easing transitions for high-performing principals into low-performing schools. Critics said the state reforms would discourage top principals from moving into schools that need the most improvement.

And this week’s bill combines the two principal bonus programs, ensuring administrators who made gains in their first year at a low-performing school aren’t left out.

“These are good changes overall that NCASA can support and are in line with changes we have requested lawmakers to consider,” Joyce said Thursday.

Legislators began restructuring principal pay in recent years after the state’s administrator pay was ranked near the bottom of the nation.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, are expected to announce details of their budget plans in the coming weeks. Senate and House leaders say they’ve agreed to a spending target just short of $24 billion.

Legislators were welcomed back to session Wednesday by roughly 20,000 protesters demanding better teacher pay and better school funding.

Education, News

On eve of teacher march, North Carolina lawmakers promise raises

Senate leader Phil Berger and Speaker of the House Tim Moore

[Note: This post has been updated to include comments from Gov. Roy Cooper’s office and the N.C. Association of Educators.]

On the eve of a massive teacher rally that’s expected to draw up to 15,000 North Carolina educators to Raleigh, the state’s most powerful legislative Republicans said Tuesday that they’ve agreed to at least a 6.2 percent salary increase for teachers this year.

“We believe that growth is what matters most,” N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, told reporters Tuesday.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger did not go into specifics, but he said that he believes all educators along the state salary scale will see pay increases of a varying nature.

“Long-term salary growth is exactly what teachers need,” said Moore. “And that’s what they got.”

However, a spokeswoman for Gov. Roy Cooper’s office pointed out Tuesday’s GOP announcement was nothing new, noting last year’s approved spending package had already included plans for the teacher raise.

A budget plan announced last week by the Democratic governor included calls for an average 8 percent raise for teachers, in which no teachers would receive less than a 5 percent raise. The plan would help North Carolina reach the national average in teacher pay in four years, his office said, making up the additional funding by axing GOP-approved tax cuts for corporations and high earners.

“Instead of prioritizing tax cuts for corporations and those earning more than $200,000, legislators should give real raises to all teachers,” said Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley. “Making education the top priority means more textbooks and classrooms, not more tax cuts for those already at the top.”

Lawmakers have been criticized for approving billions in tax cuts while public school funds eroded. When asked Wednesday, Berger said Republicans have “no intention” of raising taxes this year.

As Wednesday’s march approaches, North Carolina Republicans have been emphasizing raises approved by state lawmakers in recent years, raises that lifted the state from near the bottom of the nation in teacher pay to 39th this year.

Moore and Berger mostly pointed to Democrats for the state’s dismal teacher pay, calling out teacher furloughs and salary freezes imposed shortly after a nationwide recession sank state revenues in 2008.

Berger also blamed “politically motivated rhetoric and misinformation” for criticism of lawmakers’ public school decisions.

However, a nonpartisan report this year from the National Education Association (NEA) calculated that teacher pay plunged more than 9 percent when adjusted for inflation from 2009 to 2018, the lion’s share of that time spent under dominant Republican majorities.

Also, another report noted the state’s overall education funding per student saw one of the largest decreases in the nation from 2008 through 2015, most of that time spent under Republican majorities.

The timing of Tuesday’s announcement—one day before a large-scale teacher protest timed to coincide with lawmakers’ return to session—will likely be seen as an effort to undercut protesting teachers. Read more

Education, News

Report: How many teachers make the state’s average salary?

WRAL is offering a fascinating look today at North Carolina’s much-disputed average teacher pay. According to the state, it sits above $51,000 today, a figure that many teachers in counties across the state aren’t making.

With an estimated 15,000 teachers planning to advocate for better pay and overall school spending Wednesday in Raleigh, it’s a point well worth revisiting.

Today’s report dives into how the state arrives at that figure, and, according to WRAL, the number factors in varying local supplements, leave pay, performance bonuses and more.

From WRAL:

Before diving into the salary data, it’s important to understand how North Carolina’s average teacher salary is calculated. Alexis Schauss has been in charge of determining that number since 2002. She is director of school business for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

“On this average teacher compensation number, you can certainly argue against it in certain numbers, but what I do stand by is that we calculate it consistently from year to year,” Schauss said. “So when you’re looking at the trends and the changes, it is a comparable number, at least back to 2002, because that’s when I started. We pretty much haven’t made any changes.”

Each month, the state education agency collects payroll data for every traditional public school teacher in the state. Their pay is then audited to make sure each teacher is paid according to their license and years of experience and to make sure they have the appropriate licensure.

To determine the average salary each year, Schauss uses December payroll data because “the population is fairly stable” that month. The salary data is then downloaded into a mainframe program, which calculates the average.

Since teachers are paid in a variety of ways, Schauss breaks down the compensation into 12 categories to show how the average is calculated:

Schauss says it’s important to remember that teachers’ experience levels can impact the average from year to year.

“We’re seeing a declining population with teachers that [have] 25 years and above, so that pulls down the average,” she said.

How many teachers make $51,214 or more?

So, how many traditional public school teachers in North Carolina make the average salary – $51,214 a year – or more? The state education agency wasn’t able to provide this year’s numbers – they’ll be ready after the school year ends. So WRAL News requested salary data from a handful of school districts of various sizes to see what average teacher pay looks like in their area.

When looking at salaries, it’s important to note that the state pays the majority of teachers’ salaries, but many school systems give their teachers extra money, known as supplemental pay. Of the 115 school districts in North Carolina, 111 districts pay teachers extra.

Wake County public schools pays the highest average supplement in the state – $8,649 – followed by Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools – $7,904. Four school districts don’t pay their teachers any supplement – Bertie, Clay, Graham and Swain. Supplemental pay is included in the state’s average teacher salary calculation.

Read more

Education, News

Teacher raises, school support workers, infrastructure headline Gov. Cooper’s education budget

Gov. Roy Cooper

North Carolina teacher pay could reach the national average in four years if state lawmakers approved his newly-unveiled budget proposal, Gov. Roy Cooper’s office said Thursday.

Cooper, a Democrat, announced the details of his second proposed budget just days before more than 10,000 teachers are expected to rally in Raleigh, coinciding with the return of the N.C. General Assembly to session.

“My budget starts with public education because schools are the focal point of success,” Cooper said. “A quality teacher in every classroom and a quality principal in every school make for great public schools. They shouldn’t have to take to the streets to get the respect they deserve.”

The governor’s plan sets aside $98.7 million for teacher raises, guaranteeing at least a 5 percent raise for all teachers in 2018-2019, Cooper said. The new investment would come on top of $270 million already budgeted for teacher raises. According to his office, his plan would allow average teacher pay to meet the national average—which is projected to exceed $60,000 this year—in four years.

Cooper’s budget would also restructure the teacher salary schedule, creating an annual step salary plan that was discarded by legislators after the aughts. Today, the state’s salary schedule tops out at 25 years of experience and includes plateaus at various levels.

Teacher advocates have been critical of the salary scale’s structure, pointing out as well that recent pay raises approved by lawmakers slighted the state’s most experienced teachers.

NCAE President Mark Jewell

The N.C. Association of Educators, which advocates for teachers at the General Assembly, commended Cooper’s plan.

“Governor Cooper makes students, educators, and families a priority in this proposed budget,” said NCAE President Mark Jewell in a statement. “His plan puts more textbooks in the hands of our students, enhances the well-being of our students with more school nurses, social workers, and counselors, and puts us back on track to get educator pay and per-pupil funding to the national average.”

Cooper’s budget will inspire public school advocates, but is unlikely to move the Republican-controlled state legislature, which rebuffed Cooper’s spending plan last year.

Lawmakers say they’ve already agreed on a spending goal for the upcoming budget as they return for their “short” session next week, a step that should speed a process that’s often broken down on major differences between the House and Senate plans.

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