Raleigh, N.C. — One of the most frequently asked questions about the pending state budget deal is how exactly the teacher pay raises would work.
Legislative leaders said Tuesday that teachers would get a raise that amounts to 7 percent on average. The actual percentage varies depending on how long someone has taught.
Representatives of the N.C. Association of Educators call the 7 percent number "inflated" because it counts longevity pay earned by those who have been teaching 10 years or more.
Longer-serving teachers, in particular, worry that they will see more modest pay raises without the current longevity pay scheme.
A document compiled by the legislature's Fiscal Research Division and obtained by WRAL News illustrates the answer to many of these questions.
That chart shows that a teacher – who has a bachelors degree but no masters or national board certification – who has already taught 15 years in a school system would have made $39,650 in state-funded salary during the last school year. With longevity pay, that teacher's total pay would have been $40,542.
Under the proposed salary plan, there is no more longevity pay given as a lump-sum payment at the end of the year. Instead, that extra money would be split up among a teacher's paychecks throughout the year.
So, that same teacher who is starting his or her 16th year would have a new total state-funded salary of $43,500. That's a 7.3 percent raises from the year 15 salary, and 6 percent more than what he or she would have made in the 16th year under the old system.
A chart with the jumps for a teacher making the move between the 15th and 16th years highlighted makes these differences easier to understand.
No teacher would make less under the new pay scheme, although some very senior teachers, with around 30 years of experience, may see relatively small raises. Clearly, depending on what year a teacher is in, his pay raise could be more or less than the raise he would have seen under the old longevity pay system.
Lawmakers and their staffers have said it was their intent to phase out longevity pay as a concept. Rather, they say, the money that used to go toward longevity is "baked in" to the new salary schedule. Still, teachers and their professional organization worry that unless the General Assembly grants future pay raises, teacher pay will fall off without the automatic longevity pay bumps.
"They’re using the longevity to inflate their raises," said Marge Foreman, a lobbyist for NCAE "You can’t give me a raise with money you already owe me."
She also took issue with claims made by lawmakers Tuesday that this was the largest teacher pay raise in state history. Foreman pointed to raises during Gov. Jim Hunt's administration that ranged from 6 percent to 14 percent. The "largest pay raise" claim relies on raw dollars put into education, not the percentage raise going to each teacher.