Teacher Pay Raise at Ragsdale
Gov. Pat McCrory, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Speaker of the NC House Thom Tillis and President Pro Tem of the NC Senate Phil Berger joined forces at Ragsdale High School on Monday, Feb. 10, to announce the first step in a plan to increase salaries for teachers.
It’s an ambitious plan that proposes that next year new teachers – who currently get paid $30,800 – get raises to $35,000 over a two-year period. For new teachers in counties like Guilford, where teachers receive a considerable pay supplement, the starting salary would increase to about $40,000 a year.
This will not just cover new hires, but will cover teachers in their first nine years who are currently being paid less than $35,000 a year. It would raise all teachers to a minimum state salary of $35,000 a year.
As Forest noted in his speech, that is nearly a 14 percent increase over two years. All of the details have not been worked out because the state can’t act until the short session of the General Assembly opens in May, but with McCrory, Forest, Berger and Tillis all behind the initiative, its success is assured.
The money to fund the salary increase will come from increased revenue largely caused by an uptick in the economy. Republicans believe they can take some credit for the economy improving because they took action in the last session to reduce both personal and corporate income taxes to give people more of their own money to spend, and to encourage corporations to come to the state and do business.
Berger noted in his remarks that they had been told that the place where the state needed to get salaries up the most was with new teachers. So that is where they started.
When asked how high teacher salaries should be, Forest said that his goal was to “have the highest paid teachers in the nation.” But he noted that can’t be done overnight and was not necessarily the view held by all of his colleagues.
What should be amazing, but isn’t, is the response from the education community. The Republicans – who have controlled the state government for all of 13 months – have been routinely criticized by the teachers’ union – the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) – and other education organizations for not raising teachers’ salaries. Under the Democrats teachers have had only one raise since 2008, and teachers didn’t protest. But when Republicans come up with a plan to raise teacher salaries, the NCAE protests.
So the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the state House and president pro tem of the state Senate get together to raise teachers salaries significantly and the complaint by the NCAE is that they didn’t raise enough salaries and didn’t raise salaries enough.
Where were the protestors when Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue didn’t raise teacher salaries at all? Someone who didn’t know better might get the idea that the NCAE is not really an organization to represent teachers, but an arm of the Democratic Party that organizes teachers to oppose Republicans, whatever they do.
One of the huge problems with the plan, according to opponents, is that it is just that – a plan.
McCrory explained that this plan represented the intent of the leadership. With the support of McCrory, Forest, Tillis and Berger, there is little doubt that this intent will become law, but the law hasn’t been written yet. Action won’t be taken until the short session of the legislature in May, so there is plenty of time to write a bill that will do what these state leaders say they want done. But right now all of the details haven’t been nailed down. They still have several months before the bill can be introduced.
It is simply incredible that the Republicans can announce the first significant teacher salary increase in over five years and the result is protests from the NCAE. A form letter that the NCAE sent to teachers asking them to fill in their own personal information and send it to their state legislators states that, under the plan, a new teacher will make more than a teacher with nine years experience, but this is not true.
It is true that under the current plan both the first year teacher and the teacher with nine years experience would make $35,000 a year, but that is more than the teacher with nine years experience is making now, which is $34,450. I doubt that many teachers will turn down a $550 raise because they think they should have gotten more of a raise.
It would seem to be a given that the state cannot immediately get all the teachers salaries up to the national average. Or it can’t do it without a significant tax increase for everyone else in the state. It also seems a given that if the Republicans raised all the teacher salaries in the state to the national average that the NCAE would complain that it wasn’t enough.
McCrory, who is a graduate of Ragsdale High School, on Monday, talked about the teachers he had had and how important they were to him. He said that he went to college with the goal of being a teacher and had a teaching degree, but instead went to work for Duke Energy.
McCrory said that in North Carolina it was “time that we started showing respect for our teachers.” He said that in the past five years the only salary increase teachers had received was a little more than 1 percent. McCrory said that he had a raise in his proposed budget, but because of some other uncertainties, like the Medicaid payments, that the raise didn’t make it in the budget that was passed.
He said that this increase he was proposing for teachers was nearly 14 percent and took the base pay from $30,800 to $35,000 over two years, and that it could be done without raising taxes.
McCrory said, “This is just the first step of our long range plan.” He explained that as the revenue picture became clear there would be additional proposals to cover other teachers and other state employees. But, he said, that this was “a first step to help all classroom teachers.”
Forest said, “It’s a new day for teachers in North Carolina.” He said that the goal was “raising the quality of the educational experience” and that raising teacher pay was an important first step.
Berger noted that McCrory wasn’t the only Ragsdale graduate in the room, that state Sen. Trudy Wade was also a Ragsdale graduate. He said that the proposed education legislation would pass the legislature without a problem.
Tillis started out by saying, “Eight years ago I was the president of the Hopewell PTA.” And added, “Teachers, I want to thank you because you are the reason I’m here today.”
Later, McCrory said that he would like to find a way to promote teachers so that they could be the highest paid employees in the school. He said now the way for a teacher to make more money is to get into administration, and he’d like to see a way for teachers to stay in the classroom and make more than anyone else in the school.
The Republican state leaders have come together to promote education and to put more money into education, and it appears all the NCAE can do is complain that they aren’t moving fast enough.
BY John Hammer
February 13, 2014
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