Raleigh, N.C. — State lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory appear to be in agreement that they will increase teacher pay next year, but the legislative session is more than five months away and the details of the plan remain foggy.
North Carolina's teachers are among the lowest paid in the country, and they haven't seen a real raise in six years. Republican legislative leaders are vowing to change that and are working on a proposal to revamp the entire teacher pay system, including bumping up starting salaries for beginning teachers.
"You will see some significant legislation, more than likely in the short session, that will require several hundred million dollars," said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, a Senate budget-writer. "We're looking now to find the place to find that, and I think we've got some areas that will produce the revenue."
Tillman wouldn't say Tuesday where the money will come from, but he said lawmakers won't raise taxes.
Rep. Linda Johnson, R-Cabarrus, an education budget-writer for the House, said lawmakers wanted to give teachers raises this year but couldn't afford it because of another overrun in Medicaid spending.
"I don't think there's anyone in the General Assembly, be it Democrat or Republican, that doesn't agree that a pay raise is due," Johnson said.
McCrory said raising teacher pay will be one of his top goals for 2014.
"We will definitely have some proposals from the Governor's Office for the short session," McCrory said.
Despite the promises, teachers aren't holding their breath on the raises, said Brian Lewis, political director for the North Carolina Association of Educators.
"There's a lot of skepticism about what's coming out of here," Lewis said. "Teachers have been promised a lot over the last five or six years, and that goes back a couple of administrations."
Teachers also are angry about issues such as the loss of tenure rights, which lawmakers eliminated this year, he said.
"A lot of legislators are going in and talking to teachers, and they're coming out with an earful," he said.
Lawmakers may revisit another change from this year's session, the elimination of extra pay for teachers with advanced degrees.
Johnson said she's confident that lawmakers will reinstate the extra money in 2014.
"I think, once people understood what the master's degree is and the professionalism that's added with that in the classroom, I think we're all in agreement that that really was a mistake," she said.