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State Board of Education expected to take major step toward new compensation and licensure model

Update: The State Board of Education unanimously approved the “Blueprint for Action” on Thursday.

The State Board of Education (SBE) will likely adopt a “Blueprint for Action” on Thursday that could pave the way to dramatically change how North Carolina teachers are compensated and licensed.

On Wednesday, during a board work session, there was little objection to the “Blueprint,” which summarizes the work of the Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC) and sets the stage for the state board and General Assembly to take actions needed to move the process along, including making changes to state law.

Amy White

State Board member Amy White did express concern that the proposed model does not spell out what happens when teachers don’t meet educational goals and students are negatively impacted.

“What happens when an educator doesn’t progress?” White asked.

The state Board asked PEPSC more than 18 months ago to look at revisions to the state’s teacher licensure and pay structure. The goal is to design a model that makes the profession more attractive and eliminates barriers to becoming a teacher.

“It’s a combination of trying to address past decisions that have landed heavily on teachers with an archaic system that must change,” said SBE Chairman Eric Davis said. “We understand that we’re going to get criticized for arguing for change, but we’ve got to change it for our students’ sake and our teachers’ sake.”

PEPSC narrowly approved the “Blueprint” earlier this month on a 9-7 vote.

Click here to see the 10 “action” items in the “Blueprint”

It was clear Wednesday that any changes are likely years away. The board is expected to first focus on establishing pilot pay and licensure programs across the state. The idea is to demonstrate proof of concept to sway lawmakers who must approve funding for changes, which would result in higher pay for teachers.

Eric Davis

We’ve got more work to do before we, frankly, know what to ask of the legislature,” Davis said. “But we’re clearly heading toward an ask that would build on our existing authority around licensure but extend that to give us an opportunity to conduct pilots.”

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt hammered home the message that the proposed model would provide teachers with support to help students succeed academically.

“This is a model that is a student-first model when it comes to teacher compensation and licensure because this model is attempting to provide more support for teachers throughout their career than they’ve ever had in this state before,” Truitt said.

Despite the promise of better pay and more support, the licensure and pay proposal hasn’t won over teachers.

Justin Parmenter, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg middle school teacher and education policy commentator who writes at the website Notes from the Chalkboard, has taken on a leading position in pushing back against the new licensing and compensation model.

Parmenter used his Twitter account Wednesday to urge educators to “reach out to State Board members and let them know how you feel they should vote.”

Critics contend the proposal is an unwanted move to a system of merit pay that places too much emphasis on students’ standardized test scores. They argue that a better strategy to recruit and retain teachers — a stated goal of the new proposal — is to pay them a fair wage.

As Policy Watch reported previously, the proposed licensure and pay model would create a system of entry-level certifications to bring more people into the profession. One certification would serve essentially as a learner’s permit. It would allow aspiring educators with associate’s degrees to teach for two years while they earn a bachelor’s degree. Teachers working under that license would receive a base salary of $30,000.

Veteran teachers in leadership roles could earn an advanced teacher license. A National Board Certified Teacher working under that license with a master’s degree and more than 25 years of experience could earn more than $80,000 a year.

North Carolina’s teachers are currently paid based on years of experience. Veteran teachers would be held harmless if they lost pay under the proposal.

Truitt has said the feedback that she’s received about the proposal is mostly grounded in “misinterpretation or misstatements” of fact. She contends the proposal is not a merit pay model.

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Celebration tempered with caution as Respect for Marriage Act passes U.S. Senate, state level anti-LGBTQ bills loom

When the Respect for Marriage Act passed the U.S. Senate Tuesday, it did so with the support of North Carolina Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, two of just twelve Republican senators to vote for the measure, which aims to be sure same-sex marriage retains federal recognition.

Tillis is in his second term and Burr is retiring as the GOP wrestles with tension over LGBTQ issues and the party is fueling a national tide of anti-LGBTQ bills in state legislatures.  U.S. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), recently elected to Burr’s senate seat, has spoken at political rallies held by Christian nationalist groups that oppose same-sex marriage. The Respect for Marriage Act vote was driven by concern over the potential for a conservative majority on the Supreme Court to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision that established marriage equality as a constitutional right. Should decisions on marriage recognition return to the states, there’s a strong chance marriage equality would be among the targets of a GOP majority in the General Assembly – it numbers strengthened in this month’s election – that has for yeas pushed a series of anti-LGBTQ bills.

Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr were among the 12 Republican Senators to vote for the Respect for Marriage Act Tuesday.

Ten years ago, North Carolina was the last state to pass a same-sex marriage ban by statewide referendum. Amendment One, which was approved by a margin of 61% to 39% in a 2012 primary election that featured a turnout of just 35%, was found unconstitutional in 2014 after Gov. Roy Cooper — then the state’s Attorney General — declined to defend it in federal court. Since then, polls have consistently showed growing support for same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ protections.

But Cooper’s veto – and Democrats’ ability to sustain it the General Assembly – was the only thing preventing some anti-LGBTQ bills from advancing at the state level.  Republicans now need just one Democratic vote or absence to overcome Cooper’s veto.

For that reason, LGBTQ advocates are warning the Respect for Marriage Act doesn’t go far enough. While ensuring marriages legal in one state will be recognized across the country, it doesn’t prevent state from turning back the clock to a period where same-sex couples can be married in some states but not others.

“Today’s passage of the Respect for Marriage Act crucially codifies marriage equality for our communities,” said Kendra Johnson, executive director of Equality NC in a statement Tuesday. “However, LGBTQ+ people deserve so much more. We need our legislators to pass comprehensive legislation which protects our communities, like the Equality and Fairness for All Act. Moreover, we need federal protections from the onslaught of hateful legislation and policy being enacted on the state level. The passage of the Respect for Marriage Act is a good step, but there’s a massive gulf between where we are now and where we need to be.”

While marriage equality is an issue that increasingly divides Republicans, the party and its state lawmakers continue to fully back anti-transgender legislation from the local and state to the national level.

On Tuesday, just across the border in Virginia, Republican state lawmakers filed Senate Bill 791, which would outlaw gender affirming care for transgender youth and allow health insurance companies to decline coverage for gender affirming care for transgender people of any age. The bill is a version of the same anti-transgender legislation recently passed in Arkansas, now the subject of a federal lawsuit.

Conservative activists and lawmakers have discussed similar bills in North Carolina and are actively pushing for them in the coming session.