[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