News

Governor’s budget press conference short on details when it comes to teacher pay

26514179491_2290925c45_zWe’re still largely short on details when it comes to Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed $22.8 billion budget plan. But when it comes to teacher pay, those who were critical of the governor’s overtures for a raise plan that again targets beginning teachers rather than the state’s veteran educators are likely to find more fuel after today.

In this video posted over at The News & Observer, you’ll get some explanation from McCrory’s budget chief Andrew Heath on the governor’s proposed plan. The full budget proposal should be released sometime next week, although most observers expect significant changes from the legislature, which reconvenes Monday.

As we reported earlier this month, the governor’s plan will focus on raises for beginning teachers that will bring the state’s average teacher pay up to about $50,000. Veteran teachers, it seems, can expect a $5,000, one-time bonus.

“Every teacher will get at least a bonus of 3 percent,” Heath said during Friday’s budget press conference. “For the younger teachers we’re getting them bigger pay increases and they’re getting the bonus on top of that. With the veteran teachers, we want to recognize their service by giving them a higher percentage of the one-time bonus, and that will be about $5,000.”

Of course, that explanation isn’t likely to soothe some critics like Christine Fitch, the N.C. State Board of Education’s local school board advisor, who lambasted the governor’s pay plan for veteran teachers earlier this month.

“Let’s not call this a raise,” said Fitch. “Call it what it is: a bonus. Tell them that you’re giving them a one-time bonus.”

More details on the governor’s budget as it becomes available.

News

News & Observer editorial calls for “big raise” for teachers

EducationN.C. Policy Watch reported this week on the humdrum response to Gov. Pat McCrory’s big teacher pay announcement, an announcement that coupled one-time bonuses for teachers with an average 5 percent pay raise.

Now, like many education advocates who spoke out this week, The News & Observer‘s editorial board has joined a chorus criticizing McCrory and his GOP colleagues in the N.C. General Assembly for failing to do more when it comes to teacher pay.

The editorial wrote that the state’s public school teachers have developed a “strong sense of skepticism about Republican plans to help them.”

As we reported Wednesday, the announcement did not offer specifics on who would receive the raises, a key point here because most advocates point out some of the state’s most experienced teachers have been neglected in recent GOP-led teacher raises or bonuses.

Currently, North Carolina’s average public school teacher pay is mired at 42nd in the nation, exceeding about $47,000. McCrory’s plan would bring average teacher pay to about $50,000, still trailing the leaders in the southeast: Georgia, which pays its teachers an average of about $53,000.

From the N&O:

McCrory’s proposal has some appealing aspects and any increase in base pay is welcome, but at its heart his proposal is an attempt to get past November without having teachers in a full uproar.

Teachers will take the salary increase estimated to cost $250 million. But they don’t really want one-time bonuses estimated to cost $165 million. What they want are fair, predictable state salaries that increase with their experience and aren’t capped at $50,000. What McCrory proposes is giving cash to teachers in an election year when tax revenues are strong. When circumstances are otherwise, teachers will go without.

Read more

Commentary

Why Gov. McCrory’s teacher pay proposal is scarcely causing a ripple

Pat McCrory press eventWith the ongoing crisis over North Carolina’s embarrassing duel with Mississippi to enact the nation’s most regressive anti-LGBT discrimination law still dominating the news and political discussion in the state, Gov. Pat McCrory tried to change the subject yesterday by proposing a significant pay raise for the state’s long-abused public school teachers. Unfortunately, for the Guv, it didn’t work — but probably not for the reason that you might suspect.

The obvious explanation for the chirping crickets reaction to the pay plan is the size and depth of the discrimination law problem. And it’s true, with one of the nation’s fast growing web giants, PayPal, announcing cancellation of a 400 person expansion in Charlotte in response to the new law at almost the very same moment as the Governor’s pay announcement, there was clearly less news media oxygen to go around.

But ultimately, here’s the main reason the teacher proposal has produced unanimous yawns: No one — friend or foe — takes Gov. McCrory seriously. Not only are his plans half-baked, they come with no real prospect for actual passage into law. This is from a statement issued by the N.C. Association of Educators:

“Once again there is no long-range plan to elevate public school educators to the head of the class, only election year proposals that do little to make up for years of disrespecting the education profession and dismantling our public schools. It also leaves education support professionals with nothing. There is a reason educator turnover rates are at historic levels. The governor has a track record of signing whatever the Legislature sends him, even if it’s a budget that ends up making North Carolina the second worst for teachers in America.”

The NCAE is right. As a practical matter, McCrory’s education proposals to the General Assembly have about as much impact as those of Democratic State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson. Legislative leaders — especially Senate President Phil Berger — are utterly and openly contemptuous of the Governor and have made clear that McCrory’s proposals on virtually every subject will be ignored as the Guv has never demonstrated an iota of capacity to exert power — much less stand up to the legislature.

The bottom line: Pat McCrory may get re-elected this fall and serve eight years in office, but until he finds some way to fill the shoes that come with the office, he is, has been and always will be a lame duck when it comes to the vast majority of important policy debates in state government.

News

N.C. lawmaker to propose bill excluding teacher pay from public records

EducationCourtesy of Ed NC’s Alex Granados, N.C. Rep. Paul Stam, a Republican from Wake County who served as one of the primary sponsors on yesterday’s highly controversial anti-LGBT bill, is expected to file legislation soon that includes a sweeping set of changes for teacher and administrator pay and certification.

The bill has not been filed yet, but Stam passed out a copy of its key points to members of the legislature’s Selection Committee on Education Strategy and Practices Thursday morning.

Based on Stam’s presentation, the bill would declare individual teacher pay to no longer be public record. With lawmakers expected to consider differentiated pay scales, Stam says it would curb jealousy among school teachers.

While the proposal does not mention public records exclusions on administrator pay, Stam indicated the legislation would limit administration severance packages to one year’s salary and bonus in order to place restrictions on ballooning administrator deals across the state.

The proposal would also open up teaching without a license to individuals with a master’s or doctorate degree in a certain content area.

Additionally, Stam’s bill speeds teacher certification for the spouses of active duty military personnel and axes the “break in service” designation that educators say can lead to lower salaries for teachers who move into administration.

More on this legislation as it develops.

Commentary

Editorial: Stop putting tax cuts and conservative ideology ahead of decent teacher pay

It’s a theme that’s been invoked and echoed repeatedly across North Carolina in recent years, but it deserves to be raised up once more today in anticipation of the 2016 legislative session that convenes next month. This morning, the Greensboro News & Record does the honors in a lead editorial entitled simply “Pay teachers better”:

“Educators don’t enter the profession to get rich, but they’re entitled to do the best they can. Those who teach subjects in greatest demand, such as math and science, often can choose from among better opportunities. School systems that seriously want to attract the best teachers should be prepared to compete. But they face obstacles.

The number of young people training to become teachers through our UNC schools of education is declining steadily, despite recent increases in starting pay to $35,000.

Other factors negate the effect of higher pay. New teachers in North Carolina are no longer eligible to achieve career status, or tenure. This basic job protection simply requires due process before teachers can be dismissed.

Teachers who already earned career status are fighting in court to keep it. Two lower courts took their side, ruling the state can’t remove tenure once it’s granted, but that decision is before the N.C. Supreme Court. If it’s reversed, more veteran teachers could leave — not because they aren’t good teachers but because it would be another blow to their dignity on top of very limited pay increases over many years.

School systems also have less money to offer bonus payments to attract and keep top teachers. The state has cut per-pupil allocations and diverted money to private schools and for-profit virtual schools. Not only are schools losing money they could use to supplement teacher salaries, they’re losing funding for teaching assistants, who make life easier for classroom teachers.

Earlier this year, state Superintendent June Atkinson recommended a 10 percent, across-the-board pay raise for teachers. Legislators suggest that a 2 percent raise is more realistic, given the state’s finances.

The state’s finances would be stronger without the legislature’s drive to reduce the corporate income tax to nothing over the next few years — as if businesses don’t depend on a well-educated workforce. They should be willing to pay for better schools.

Republican lawmakers would rather pay better salaries for the most effective teachers, but that strategy can’t work unless salaries are high enough to attract more people into teaching in the first place. In addition, there will be fewer vacancies if veteran teachers are encouraged to stay a few years longer rather than retire as soon as they’re eligible. Putting them under a pay ceiling doesn’t invite them to stay.

North Carolina is 42nd in the country in average teacher pay. One doesn’t have to be a math teacher to see that’s a formula for failure.”