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.”
Cooper shared news about the pay proposal while attending a conference for middle school educators in Greensboro.
His spending plan would restore extra pay to teachers who hold master’s degrees in the subjects they teach. Lawmakers cut the pay in 2013.
The plan would also eliminate the requirement that teachers pay for substitutes when they take a personal day, give principals experience-based raises and restore salary supplements for principals who hold advanced degrees.
Mark Jewell, president of the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE), applauded Cooper’s plan to increase teacher pay and restore extra pay for advanced degrees.
“Ensuring that our educators are professionally compensated is one of the NCAE’s top legislative priorities,” Jewell said. “Competitive salaries will help recruit and retain the best and most diverse educators to our schools.”
A bill making its way through the Senate would also restore master’s pay for teachers who hold the degree in the subjects that they teach.
Meanwhile, Cooper’s bond proposal is $2 billion more than the $1.9 billion proposed by House Speaker Tim Moore.
News of Cooper’s plan began to trickle out while Moore shared the detail of his plan with the House Education-K-12 Committee, which unanimously approved the measure and advanced it to the Finance Committee.
Cooper’s plan includes $2.1 billion for K-12 projects, $500 million each for facility improvements at community colleges and UNC System universities and $100 million for the N.C. History Museum and the N.C. Zoo.
Under Moore’s plan, House Bill 241, $1.5 billion in bond money would be earmarked for K-12 construction and renovation projects. The UNC system and state community colleges would get $200 million each.
Moore couldn’t be reached for comment late Tuesday afternoon.
The state Senate has also proposed a pay-as-you-go plan for school construction and renovation the Senate leadership contends would generate $6 billion over 10 years for K-12, community colleges and UNC System construction needs.
“A bond is the smartest way to invest in school construction and renovation and other critical needs without causing harmful cuts elsewhere,” Cooper said. “With a school bond, we’ll get hammers swinging all across the state and still be able to afford good teachers and principals.”
More than $8 billion in construction and renovation needs have been identified for K-12 schools across the state.
Voters would also be asked to approve an $800 million bond proposal to invest in clean water through local water and sewer projects.
Cooper’s spending plan would also:
- Provide $5 million to recruit, retain, and support quality teachers and $5.3 million for more professional development opportunities for teachers and school leaders.
- Invest $4 million to expand the Teaching Fellows program to include more universities and more types of teachers.
- Provide $40 million to hire more school nurses, counselors, psychologists, social workers and school resource officers.
- Spend $15 million for safety improvements and training at K-12 schools.
- Provide $29 million in new funding for schools to purchase more textbooks, digital resources, instructional supplies, and enhanced digital learning opportunities for students.
“Better pay for educators, safe, modern school buildings, and opportunities for students to learn and stay healthy are critical to our state’s future and we must invest in them,” Cooper said.