Details unclear, local education proponents remain concerned

Last updated: February 17. 2014 11:13AM - 2253 Views
Christina Day cday@civitasmedia.com

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N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory announced a proposal to be brought before the General Assembly to increase pay for starting teachers by 14 percent, but details of the plan remain uncertain.

In a press conference on Feb. 10, McCrory said, “There’s no greater investment we can make than in preparing our kids for the future, and there’s no question that high-quality teachers lead to better student achievement. That’s why we are committed to boosting starting teacher pay to $35,000 over the next two years.”

According to the Department of Public Instruction’s salary schedules for 2013-2014, a starting teacher with a Bachelor’s degree makes an annual salary of $30,800. According to the National Education Association, this places North Carolina No. 47 in the country for teacher pay.

The proposed increase would bring the minimum base salary to $33,000 for starting teachers in 2014-2015 school year and $35,000 in the 2015-16 school year.

“We’re hoping it will be not only encouragement to all teachers who will receive a pay raise, but a step in the right direction,” Soucek said, calling the proposal a “fiscally and economically sound decision.”

As to the proposal being a response to teacher retention issues in the state, Soucek said he believed “concern is valid, hysteria is not valid.”

“I’ve been looking at as many numbers I can find, and although teacher retention is slightly down, 1 or 2 percent, and this is a trend in the wrong direction, it’s not what people are screaming as a mass exodus, which is an exaggeration,” he said.

Ashe superintedent Dr. Todd Holden expressed concerns about retention and Ashe schools’ inability to compete with surrounding counties, such as Watauga and Alleghany, which are able to supplement teacher income with county funds from a higher tax base.

“To say that it’s not a big issue is incorrect,” Holden said, adding that teacher turnover rate in Ashe has jump in recent years from 7.7 percent to 10 percent.

He said the inequality of the proposed pay increase could be detrimental to overall morale of teachers.

“It will help beginning teachers, but it will create a division,” Holden said, due to teachers who do not qualify for the pay increase will continue at salary levels that have been frozen for approximately six years.

Soucek said plans for increasing pay for all teachers would be discussed when “the budget becomes more clear.”

Lindsay Wagner, education reporter for nonprofit, non-partisan organization N.C. Policy Watch said because no documentation, aside from a press release, has been made available on McCrory’s plan, many details remain “murky.”

One of these details, according to Wagner, is if the pay increase will lead to a situation in which veteran teachers will make less than starting teachers.

“This pay will cover any teacher that has nine years of service or less,” said in answer to the concerns. “Teachers with more than nine years of service already make above the proposed amounts, so it won’t effect them.”

Wagner said this may not be the case, depending on individual county’s teachers supplements, and the fact remains that approximately 60,000 veteran teachers will see no change in pay.

“Another big question is: will this be a recurring benefit, or a one time bonus, meaning folks revert back to base after 2016?,” Wagner said.

She said the N.C. Justice Center has plans to analyze the details of the proposal as more information is provided by the Governor’s office.

There is one bottom line, according to Holden.

“All teachers in this state deserve a raise,” he said.

Christina Day can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @CDayinWJ

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