NC plans to hike teacher pay, McCrory announces - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

NC plans to hike teacher pay, McCrory announces

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JAMESTOWN, N.C. -

North Carolina plans to hike teacher salaries in the next two years, Gov. Pat McCrory said in an announcement at the high school he attended.

Speaking Monday morning at Ragsdale High in Jamestown, McCrory said he and General Assembly leaders plan to raise teacher pay from a base of $30,800 to $35,000 in the next two years.

"Our intention is to build a strong foundation for the future," McCrory said.

The legislation will be introduced when the General Assembly meets for the short session in May. The concept already has support from House and Senate leaders.

McCrory said the current starting salary is too low.

"That's not even enough to raise a family or pay off student loans," McCrory said.

The proposal would raise teacher pay by $2,200 this year and $2,000 next year, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger's office. The raises would be for teachers who have from zero to five years of experience.

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McCrory said the state leaders are looking at ways to compensate experienced teachers more but don't have a plan for that yet.Although teachers are happy some of the poorest paid will receive increases, some veteran teachers wonder when it will be their turn.

"It's a matter of making sure we have a fair standard of living," said Kathryn McNeil, who has been teaching for seven years. "I'm a little bit sad that I'm outside the range that it affects because there are a lot of us that have been teaching six or seven years and we still make what first year teachers are making."

State schools Superintendent June Atkinson said, "Our veteran teachers will be asking, 'When will the governor and the leadership in the General Assembly -- how are they going to address our needs as experienced teachers?'"

McCrory also said 3,000 state employees will get raises from Jan. 1 and said employees like nurses and Highway Patrolmen "whose base pay was too low for too long."

The Republicans have complete control of state government, but drew criticism in the 2013 legislative session from Democrats and others for failing to raise teacher pay. The Moral Monday protests galvanized opposition to Republican plans, and many teachers showed up in Raleigh to express frustration with pay.

McCrory put a 1 percent raise in his original budget but it failed to make it through the General Assembly.

But 2013 was not an election year, and the Republicans are likely to raise heavy competition in the 2014 elections as they look to hold onto their legislative majorities. Monday's announcement moved to address those concerns, and the news conference featured all of the top Republican leaders, including House Speaker, and U.S. Senate candidate, Thom Tillis.

Sen. Martin Nesbitt, a key Democrat, immediately called Monday's announcement "ridiculous posturing" in an election year.

"We didn't see a plan to raise teacher salaries to the national average; we didn't see a plan to make North Carolina competitive with states -- like Virginia -- that are actively recruiting our best educators; we didn't see a plan to ensure that our students are prepared for today's workforce," Nesbitt said.

At the news conference Monday, McCrory praised the legislative leaders and said the programs the General Assembly had put in place had made it fiscally possible to pay teachers more.

McCrory said Monday's announcement was only the beginning, and that his administration would continue to roll out plans to better compensate teachers and improve student performance. Lawmakers also said the raises won't require tax increases because the state has the $200 million it mill cost over the next two years.

"Revenues are up some because the economy is slowly recovering, and it's also coming from tough decisions over the past three sessions where we trimmed spending on the government side," Berger said. "That slowdown in spending has given us the capacity to do this."

McCrory said that for the past six years, North Carolina has only given teachers one raise, of 1.2 percent. McCrory's comment was a reference to the fact that his predecessors as governor were Democrats.

"And frankly, that [one raise] was made possible" by the work in the legislature from Tillis and Berger, McCrory said.

"Now it's time we started showing respect for our teachers in North Carolina and letting them know it's a top priority," McCrory said.

McCrory also announced that teachers who get master's degrees will get supplemental pay. Tillis said the decision not to reward teachers with a master's degree was a mistake and that the state leaders decided to change their position.

"In retrospect, we realized it was wrong," Tillis said.

STATEMENTS ON THE ANNOUNCEMENT

"For years, Democrats who controlled the Governor's mansion and the General Assembly allowed teacher pay to stagnate and fall behind the rest of the country. Today, Governor McCrory and Republicans in the General Assembly have righted that wrong and have made it clear that improving the quality of public education and retaining our hardworking teachers is their top priority. "

- N.C. Republican Party


"Let's just look at the facts. The Governor and legislative Republicans held a pep rally today to announce that over the next two years, they're going to pay teachers $35,000 a year. We didn't see a plan to raise teacher salaries to the national average; we didn't see a plan to make North Carolina competitive with states - like Virginia - that are actively recruiting our best educators; we didn't see a plan to ensure that our students are prepared for today's workforce.

"Instead, we saw Governor McCrory and his Republican allies do the very least they possibly could and hold a celebratory, election-year rally. To call today's announcement a victory is an insult to teachers and their students. North Carolina families are going to see through Governor McCrory's ridiculous posturing." 

- Senate Democratic Leader Martin Nesbitt


"This raise for just a select few teachers in North Carolina falls remarkably short. All teachers in North Carolina are responsible for preparing our children to be successful and all teachers deserve to be paid like the professionals they are. We need a dedicated plan to raise teacher pay to the national average so we can attract and retain the very best teachers. The Republican plan is just smoke and mirrors designed to give them an election year talking point, not a serious attempt to improve education in North Carolina."

- N.C. House Democratic Leader Larry Hall


"It's a new morning for education in North Carolina. One that brings together the top leaders of our state to address one of the most pressing issues we face, teacher pay.

"Regardless of political affiliation, we all strive to provide the best education in the world to students right here in North Carolina. Why would we dream of less? Why would we stop short of that goal?"

- Lt. Governor Dan Forest

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