Budget passes, teachers get raises

Jul. 31, 2014 @ 04:54 PM

After about a month of negotiating, the House and Senate have reached a state budget agreement. 

Under the new draft, teachers will receive a roughly 7 percent raise, teaching assistant positions will be funded and tenure will be protected. The budget also creates a six-step pay schedule and provides for masters supplement pay for teachers and instructional support personnel who either completed a degree at the master’s, six-year, or doctoral degree level for which they completed at least one course prior to August 1, 2013 and would have qualified for the salary supplement as it was in effect on June 30, 2013.

State Sen. Tommy Tucker said the 7 percent increase is the largest classroom teacher pay increase in the history of the state.

He said they started at 11 percent and ended up at 7 percent and revised the pay schedule to make it more simplistic.

The budget also gives local districts money for differentiated pay for teachers after submitting proposals to establish a local plan. 

Gov. Pat McCrory in the past said he would not support a budget that cut teaching assistant spending or funding for textbooks.  

The North Carolina Association of Educators said the increase and new salary schedule folds longevity pay into the schedule and uses it to fund the increases. 

“This is another form of disrespect to teachers, who daily do more with less to ensure that the 1.5 million students in this state receive a quality public education,” NCAE Vice President Mark Jewell said in a statement. “Longevity is an earned benefit that teachers, as well as all other state and public school employees, receive separately for loyal state years of service and it should not be taken away. It is wrong for the General Assembly to take the percentage represented by longevity, add it to an additional new percentage increase, and try to pass if off as a total salary increase.”

Jewell said in a statement that teachers may see a future overall decrease with longevity being folded into the new schedule.

According to the state human resources manual, longevity pay is used to recognize long-term service and given to eligible state employees after 10 years of service. It is a lump-sum payment received annually. According to the manual, it is not part of base pay. 

Senate Leader Phil Berger praised the budget and the compromise. 

“Making positive and historic changes to the status quo isn’t easy – and we commend our Senate and House colleagues for their hard work, patience and perseverance in crafting a plan that provides the largest teacher pay raise in state history without raising taxes,” Berger and Speaker Thom Tillis said in a statement. “Investing $282 million in pay raises will make North Carolina competitive nationally and encourage the best and brightest teachers to make a long-term commitment to their profession, our students and our state.”

The Senate voted on it Thursday and again at 12:01 a.m. It will be sent to the House Friday and then to the Governor. Tucker said he did not anticipate any changes.

“I’m sure it will go through,” Tucker said Thursday afternoon.