In a visit to Jamestown Feb. 10, Gov. Pat McCrory laid out his plan to increase the starting salary for teachers by 14 percent over the next two years. N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and N.C. Senator Phil Berger joined McCrory in announcing the plan at Ragsdale High School, the governor’s alma mater.
The starting salary for a teacher in North Carolina is $30,800--$6,000 below the national average. Over the past six years, teachers have only received a 1.2 percent across-the-board raise. Some counties supplement the state wage as funds are available, so the average teacher earns $45,938.
McCrory plans to raise the starting salary to $33,000 for the 2014-2015 school year, and $35,000 by 2016.
“It’s time we started showing respect for our teachers in North Carolina and letting them know it’s a top priority,” McCrory said.
The cost of implementing this pay raise is $200 million. Funding will come from cuts made to various programs last year, including Medicaid.
At the end of the 2013 session, the General Assembly removed teacher tenure and cut pay raises for master’s degree holders. The original budget allocated for a 1 percent increase in teacher pay, but that never came to fruition. Tillis said cutting master’s degree raises was a mistake, and alluded to further legislation to reinstate the pay increase.
Only the 42,000 teachers with bachelor’s degrees who have been teaching less than 10 years will benefit from the pay increase.
“We want to raise the floor, then we’ll raise the ceiling,” Eric Guckian, McCrory’s education advisor, said.
Alamance-Burlington Board of Education chair Tony Rose said he believes these measures are a step in the right direction, but they do not go far enough.
“The only concerns I have about McCrory’s plan is that I would like to see the increase stretch across all our teachers rather than just teachers with less than 10 years of experience. I hope they have plans to extend this raise to all teachers,” Rose said.
In a Pubic Policy Polling study, 79 percent of voters believe teachers should receive a pay raise. Only 3 percent of voters said teachers are paid too much. Many expressed concern teachers are leaving North Carolina to seek jobs in higher-paying states.
North Carolina is currently ranked 47th in teacher pay in the nation, but this proposal sets the state on track to reach the middle of the pack by 2016.
Pamela Thompson, member of the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education, said she believes teachers deserve more respect.
“We need to pay our teachers more because we’re losing them. People have to do what they can to make ends meet because of how much they love what they do. I’m proud of McCrory for this. We’re 47th in the nation, so we won’t get to the top any time quick, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Thompson said.
Alamance-Burlington school system grants an 8% subsidy to teachers in the county. Rose says the pay increase will not affect the subsidy given out by the county.
Science and math teachers could see another pay increase from this administration. McCrory has proposed different starting salaries depending on subject taught. The governor has not officially released plans to implement differential pay, but McCrory added his administration will lay out more education reforms in the coming weeks.
“It’s a new day for teachers in North Carolina. It’s time for teachers to be compensated,” Lt. Governor Dan Forest said.