Cooper outlines plan to raise NC teacher pay to national average
Posted February 20
Updated February 21
Charlotte, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper said Monday that his proposed budget will include 5 percent raises for public school teachers in each of the next two years and laid out a plan to bring teacher pay in North Carolina to the national average within five years.
"These aren’t just investments in our teachers. They are lasting investments in our economy and in our own children’s future," Cooper said at an event at Collinswood Language Academy in Charlotte. "Education is part of North Carolina’s legacy, but recently we’ve fallen behind. My proposal is a serious, multi-year increase in teacher salaries that will get us to the national average so we can show our teachers the respect they deserve."
North Carolina currently ranks 41st nationally in average teacher salary.
The budget proposal also would give teachers an extra $150 a year to offset out-of-pocket expenses for classroom supplies, Cooper said.
Republican legislative leaders quickly jumped on the proposal, saying the governor was backing their efforts in recent years to increase teacher pay.
"Republicans have made bold and historic commitments to raising teacher pay in North Carolina since 2014, so we're excited Gov. Cooper wants to join us in that effort," House Speaker Tim Moore said in a statement. "Republicans raised teacher pay while cutting taxes and providing relief to hard-working North Carolinians, so we hope the details of Gov. Cooper’s proposal will mirror our successful approach."
"After he opposed recent Republican budgets that increased average teacher pay by 15.5 percent, we are pleased Roy Cooper has finally joined legislative efforts to undo the damage of years of Democratic teacher furloughs and teacher pay freezes. We look forward to reviewing his complete budget proposal," Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement.
Cooper didn't spell out how he plans to pay for the raises, noting in a fact sheet only that his proposed budget doesn't include tax increases for the $813 million investment.
Teacher pay has been a political football for several years, with Democrats and Republicans blaming each other for North Carolina's decline in average salary and claiming credit for any increases in spending. The one thing both sides have agreed on is a willingness to put more money in state classrooms.
"Governor Cooper’s two-year teacher pay proposal is a significant step toward restoring respect back to the profession and making North Carolina a teacher destination state once again," Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said in a statement. "It also does not leave out our most experienced educators, which has been the case in recent years. The most valuable resource a student can have to help them be successful is a qualified, caring teacher in front of the class."