Education

North Carolina moves to 29th in teacher pay, according to new National Education Association report

North Carolina teachers marched for better pay last May.

With an average teacher salary of $53,975, North Carolina climbed five spots to an estimated 29th in the country in the National Education Association’s Annual Rankings of the States report for 2018-19.

North Carolina also climbed from fourth to the second best-paying state in the Southeast when it comes to teacher pay.

After the previous year’s final ranking was calculated, North Carolina ranked 34th in the country with an average teacher salary of $51,231, which was 18 positions behind the national average of $60,462.

The National Education Association (NEA) has set $61,782 as the new projected national average. North Carolina is about $7,800 behind that mark.

“Funding teacher salaries in North Carolina must remain a top priority for our lawmakers,” said North Carolina Association of Educators President Mark Jewell.

He added: “In order to restore respect for the profession, and recruit and retain the best and most diverse teaching force for our students, the state must invest in professional salaries for all educators. The state must also fully restore programs such as Teaching Fellows and Teacher Cadet, and implement statewide the Teacher Assistant Tuition Scholarship initiative.”

Projected data in the NEA report is subject to change once the fiscal year ends

North Carolina’s teacher pay has benefited from several consecutive years of pay increases. The state had fallen to 47th in teacher pay in the NAE rankings in 2013.

“The facts don’t lie: Republican leadership has been great for teachers,” Senate leader Phil Berger said in a statement to area media. “North Carolina Republicans have increased teacher pay for five consecutive years, and in the last two years we increased salaries by 9.9 percent.”

North Carolina could climb higher in the rankings if budget proposal to increase pay are approved by state lawmakers.

Jewell said Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget proposal would move the state closer to the national average and near the top in the Southeast.

Cooper has proposed a 9.1 percent average pay raise for teachers of the next two years with no teacher receive less than a 3 percent pay increase.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson has proposed raising teacher pay by 5 percent to 7 percent.

Commentary, Education

Governor’s budget shows schools’ desperate need for more revenue

On May 16, more than 20,000 educators and public school advocates marched on Raleigh to demand better funding for North Carolina’s public schools.

Speaking at the event, Governor Cooper captured the protesters’ sentiments, saying “This is far more than just about teacher pay…it’s about real investment in our schools.”

The Governor specified which investments he found most important:

“We have to invest in textbooks. We have to invest in digital learning. We have to improve the physical condition of our schools. We have to hire more nurses. We have to hire more counselors. We have to hire more teacher assistants.  We have to hire more school resource officers. We have to expand the Teaching Fellows program. And we need to give you help for school supplies because we know you are reaching into your own pockets and paying for them, and that’s not right.”

He proposed paying for these investments last year by delaying then-planned tax cuts for corporations and North Carolinians earning more than $200,000 per year.

Ultimately, the General Assembly chose a different route, moving forward with tax cuts in 2019 that are now draining more than $900 million per year from state coffers. When added to prior rounds of tax cuts since 2013, North Carolina’s coffers are now missing $3.6 billion a year. These tax cuts are making it impossible for state leaders’ to make the school investments called on by Cooper and the May 16th marchers.

One needs to look no further than Governor Cooper’s 2019 budget proposal to see how North Carolina’s dedication to low taxes for corporations and wealthy North Carolinians prevents investment of the likes called upon at the May 16th protest. It hardly makes a dent in giving teachers the tools they need to be successful. Cooper’s proposed investments in textbooks, supplies, and support staff – while admirable – would still leave funding well below where it needs to be. Read more

Education

Public schools advocates plan ‘Tweet Storm’ to protest bills to arm teachers

Two bills aimed at arming North Carolina’s classroom teachers have garnered a lot of national attention.

But a statewide push back against them will intensify this week with an hour-long  “Tweet Storm” targeting state lawmakers.

Public Schools First NC (PSFNC),  a statewide nonpartisan, nonprofit organization focused solely on pre-K – 12 public education issues, is calling on supporters to join the “Tweet Storm” from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., on Wednesday to let lawmakers know they oppose arming teachers.

“Arming teachers with guns will NOT make our students safer,” the organization posted on its website. “Our teachers need resources, not guns. Our schools need counselors, social workers, school psychologists and nurses, not armed teachers.”

The two bill being considered by lawmakers are:

  • Senate Bill 192, The School Security Act of 2019, which would give teachers a 5 percent raise to become sworn police officers. The teachers could carry concealed weapons in their classrooms and would have arrest powers under the proposal.
  • House Bill 216, The School Self-Defense Act, would make it legal for teachers and staff members to carry concealed handguns on school grounds “to respond to acts of violence or imminent threats of violence.”

The House bill’s primary sponsors are Reps. Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus) and Michael Speciale (R-Craven). The Senate bill’s primary sponsors are Senators Jerry Tillman (R-Guilford and Randolph), Ralph Hise and Warren Daniel. Hise and Daniel are Republicans from western North Carolina.

PFSNC is urging supporters (the group contends most of the state’s 110,000 educators oppose arming teachers) to use hashtags #SchoolSafety, #BooksNotGuns, #ResourcesNotGuns and #ArmMeWith during the “Tweet Storm.”

The organization is also asking supporters to @ their representatives and legislative leaders.

Education

Superintendent Mark Johnson has released a spending plan for his #NC2030 priorities

DPI Superintendent Mark Johnson

Last month, State Superintendent Mark Johnson released a lengthy list of education priorities he contends will ensure North Carolina’s public schools are the best for teachers and students by 2030.

The list included pay increases for teachers (at least 5 percent pay raises this year), the elimination of high-stakes testing, the recruitment of the best and brightest teachers and more flexibility for school districts, among others.

Johnson didn’t know how much his plan called #NC2030 would cost when he unveiled it during a big dinner and reception at the Raleigh Convention Center.

But he has quietly released a proposed spending plan for the 2019-21 fiscal biennium at  https://www.ncsuperintendent.com/budget.

The plan would cost more than $1 billion the first year and nearly $1.5 billion in the second year.

Johnson’s spending recommendations have been sent to the General Assembly.

Commentary, Education, Legislature, NC Budget and Tax Center, News

The week’s Top Stories on Policy Watch

1. Gov. Cooper wants a $3.9 billion education bond, 9 percent pay raises for teachers

Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday proposed a robust $3.9 billion education bond for school construction and renovation projects.

He also called for an average nine percent pay raise for teachers over the next two years to put North Carolina on a path to become the best state in the Southeast for teacher pay in four years.

No teacher would receive less than a three percent raise in either of the next two years, under Cooper’s plan.

“North Carolina ranks 37th in teacher pay, and that’s not good enough,” Cooper said in a statement. “We need to put our schools first and that starts with paying teachers and principals better and treating them like the professionals they are.” [Read more…]

** Bonus read: Gov. Cooper’s environmental budget adds $6 million to tackle emerging contaminants
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2. How a high school basketball controversy in Charlotte encapsulates inequality in North Carolina schools

When a West Charlotte High basketball player excoriated the “B.S.” that grifted a home court playoff game from his school this week, his palpable anger made sense on many levels, just one of them actually involving sports.

The school’s gym – capacity 400 – wasn’t big enough to house West Charlotte’s hotly-anticipated match-up Tuesday with cross-town rival, Ardrey Kell High, The Charlotte Observer reported this week. So his team’s well-earned spoils, a home date in the “Lion’s den” – as locals call it – decamped and moved eight miles northeast to a neutral high school with 650 more seats.

Put aside the slight to West Charlotte’s basketball team, for a moment. Snatching home court advantage in a playoff game stings – though West Charlotte won the game anyway – but, in this week’s report, Mecklenburg County Commissioner Vilma Leake saw the controversy absent the fog of competition.

In a very limited sense, it’s a sports story. But in a broader sense, it’s a microcosm, a symptom of an illness in North Carolina. It’s a weary story, a story about haves and have-nots, Leake explained, writ small in high school basketball melodrama.

“We are more segregated today than we’ve ever been,” Leake sagely told The Observer reporter. “There’s a white system and a Black system.” [Read more…]

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3. RDU officials side with mining interests in clash over Umstead quarry

Umstead State Park in winter is at its least beautiful, but in no way is it ugly. Within the park’s palette of gray and rust appear plush pelts of moss in iridescent green and coarse crowns of lichens in dusty mint. Outcrops of ancient rocks, composed of minerals such as feldspar and quartz, are strewn across the forest floor like scattered teeth.

Failing to observe property lines, the park’s outcrops extend east and west of the park to 250 acres owned by the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority. Wake Stone, which has operated a quarry nearby for more than 35 years, wants the rock. The Airport Authority needs the money.

Under a controversial agreement, the Airport Authority board has leased 105 acres, known as the “Odd Fellows tract,” to Wake Stone, which, provided the test borings prove fruitful, would timber it. Then on 45 of the acres, the company would blast a pit 40 stories deep to extract the minerals, crush them and sell the material for road-building and other uses. While Wake Stone has agreed to invest millions of dollars in adjacent natural areas and mountain bike trails, the mining could continue for 25 years or more.

The lease has raised concerns about transparency and inclusiveness of the Airport Authority board, whose eight members include several real estate developers and construction company owners. The board is appointed by the Durham City Council, Durham County Commission, Raleigh City Council and Wake County Commission, but three of those four elected bodies say they were not consulted on the deal. [Read more…]

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4. Educators seethe at N.C. lawmakers’ plan to arm, deputize teachers

Two new bills filed by state lawmakers take the heated debate over gun rights and safety to one of its most controversial battlegrounds: the classroom.

House Bill 216 – The School Self-Defense Act – would make it legal for teachers and staff members to carry concealed handguns on school grounds “to respond to acts of violence or imminent threats of violence.”

Senate Bill 192 – The School Security Act of 2019 – would incentivize teachers to carry concealed weapons, provide training and pay raises for teachers who undergo law enforcement training, and make them sworn law enforcement officers too.

The House bill’s primary sponsors are Reps. Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus) and Michael Speciale (R-Craven). The Senate bill’s primary sponsors are Senators Jerry Tillman (R-Guilford and Randolph), Ralph Hise and Warren Daniel. Hise and Daniel are Republicans from western North Carolina.[Read more…]

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5. The Equal Rights Amendment makes a long overdue comeback

There’s no denying that the American public policy environment is measurably more progressive in the aftermath of last November’s election. In Washington, congressional leaders of both parties are pushing back against President Trump’s attempt to declare a national emergency, and the U.S. House is seriously discussing proposals for a “Green New Deal” and a massive overhaul of federal ethics and voting rights laws.

Meanwhile, here in North Carolina, despite conservative majorities in both houses of the General Assembly, progressive proposals are percolating into public view at a much faster pace than in recent years. In the early days of the 2019 session, lawmakers have introduced legislation to close the state’s Medicaid gap, curb gun violence, restore master’s degree pay for teachers, raise the minimum wage, reinstate the state Earned Income Tax Credit, expand paid family and medical leave and legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

And while no one expects an easy path onto the statute books for any of these bills right away, it is possible to envision such a path in the foreseeable future – especially for the state-level proposals, given that each of them has been around for a good while and has already won approval in numerous jurisdictions. [Read more…]

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6. Charlotte Learning Academy leader “seeing red” over comment comparing graduates’ video to ‘dirt sandwich’

Charlotte Learning Academy leaders left Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting visibly shaken and “seeing red” over a comment made by Steven Walker, vice chairman of the Charter School Advisory Board, who awkwardly compared ­­videos from former students of the struggling charter school to a marketing strategy that can make a “dirt sandwich” look good.

“I’m not trying to compare the school to a dirt sandwich or anything like that but what I’m saying is that if you market something you can make it look real good,” Walker said.

The Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) has recommended that Charlotte Learning Academy’s (CLA) charter not be renewed due to poor academic performance. The school serves mostly at-risk, economically disadvantaged students in grades 6-12 who find it difficult to succeed in a traditional school setting.[Read more…]

** Bonus read: State Board of Education votes to close Charlotte Learning Academy
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7. Upcoming event:

North Carolina’s death penalty: On life support? Join us Tuesday (March 12) at noon for our next Crucial Conversation

Here’s something you might not know: North Carolina hasn’t executed a prisoner since 2006, but the state – home to a boom in capital murder trials during the 1990s – houses the country’s sixth largest “death row” population.

That’s one of a series of sobering details in “Unequal Justice: How Obsolete Laws and Unfair Trials Created North Carolina’s Outsized Death Row,” a report published in 2018 by the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, the state’s leading advocacy organization on capital punishment.

Learn more and register today for this special event.