Lawmakers, school leaders spar over budget

Posted August 6, 2014

— A week after the final budget compromise was rolled out, lawmakers and educators still don't agree on what it does for schools and teachers.

Republican leaders hailed the deal as the "largest teacher pay raise in state history," although the truth of that claim depends to some degree on interpretation, since prior governors have given similarly large raises.

The average 7 percent raise included the longevity pay many teachers were already owed by the state under the terms of their employment agreement.  Without including longevity pay, the actual average raise was closer to 5.5 percent, according to Gov. Pat McCrory, who has already said he will sign the deal.

Republicans also touted additional money in the budget to reduce class sizes in early grades and said no current teaching assistant would be cut under the plan.

Left unmentioned in the budget debate, however, was a change in the formula by which the state funds enrollment growth in public schools.

Average daily membership, or ADM, is a per-student amount that each school district gets from the state, based on enrollment numbers. In the past, ADM adjustments have been prospective – that is, districts were funded based on projected growth for the coming year.  The change makes ADM adjustments retrospective – that is, the state will reimburse districts for additional students after the fact. Schools will have to cover the cost of the additional students in the meantime.

At a news conference Wednesday morning, House and Senate Democratic leaders called the budget a political "shell game" intended to head off voter anger about cuts to education funding.

"It’s a ridiculous attempt to create a 90-day Band-Aid, to appease teachers and parents until after the election," House Minority Leader Larry Hall said.

"This budget continues to hurt public education and hopes teachers and parents won't notice. Well, our teachers and citizens are not stupid, and in fact, they have noticed," said Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue.  "Nobody is fooled by this budget."

"By rolling longevity pay into the base pay, they’re simply returning money that the teachers already had and were entitled to, and they’re calling it a raise," Blue, D-Wake, added. "It’s in the interest of the Republicans to claim that the pay raise is greater than it is, but do the arithmetic." 

Blue referenced a report Tuesday night by the Wake County Board of Education showing the new budget will leave the system with a $12.6 million funding gap. About $11.1 million of that is salary and benefits the Wake County Public School System will have to pay to increase local supplements, which are calculated as a percentage of state pay.

Even though Wake County will receive $8.8 million more for teachers and $90,000 more for textbooks, it will receive $9 million less for teaching assistants, as well as $520,000 less for transportation and $739,000 less for at-risk students.

The net loss in state funds to Wake County alone, according to the report, is $1.5 million.  

Rep. Skip Stam, R-Wake, blamed most of the funding gap on the school board, which he says didn't budget sufficient money to match the state pay raise. 

They asked us to really raise teacher pay high, but they didn't provide money if we did," Stam said. "It's like the Menendez brothers who murdered their parents and then threw themselves on the mercy of the court because they were orphans." 

Asked specifically about the $1.5 million net loss in state funding, Stam brushed it aside. 

"The budget for Wake County's school system is approximately $1.3 billion. They can easily find the money for those things if they'll work on it for about half an hour," he said. 

Asked about the change to the ADM funding, Stam said he hadn't been aware of it previously but wasn't worried about its effects. 

"I have never seen so much squealing about getting more money," he remarked, shaking his head. 

 McCrory said Wednesday afternoon he plans to sign the budget by the end of the week.


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  • blpadge2 Aug 8, 2014

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    You are one of the ones getting screwed. If your new step is less than your old one plus longevity, you are supposed to get a flat $1000 raise. I would check you paycheck carefully because you are at risk of being underpaid. Using the Base bachelor scale as example you should have gotten $42,260 for step 20 plus 4.5% longevity for 33 years $1902 = $44161. Under new scale you will get step 21 which pays $46500 because it only includes 3.25% for longevity. Thus your net raise will be $2338 or 5.2%. I am in the reverse problem in that I will be on step 25, but only 10 years of service. I'm getting more than I am due, but am being permanently frozen, maxxed out.

  • joycejunior Aug 8, 2014

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    Yeah, hard to keep your promises when you have other priorities, like multiple tax cuts. That's kind of like defending a deadbeat dad who voluntarily keeps quitting better paying jobs for lesser paying jobs and then claims he doesn't have enough to pay for child support.

  • joycejunior Aug 8, 2014

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    Yes, it's all been mentioned before, but some people would rather that it not be true because then its easier to justify their politics. Cognitive dissonance. If they had kept the pay scales the same as they were back in 2008, I'd be making more money than this current raise. If you adjusted for inflation, I'd be making thousands more. This current government gives with one hand and takes away with another, hoping nobody notices while the party faithful pretend only the good stuff is happening.

  • hiddentreasurescruecds Aug 8, 2014

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    Another falsehood. Teachers received generous raises under Hunt and Easley and actually surpassed the national average in pay. There were rallies when Perdue froze salaries, and teachers weren't happy. She proposed teacher raises her last 2 years in office, but the Republican controlled GA didn't include them in the budget.

    But then you knew all that didn't you? It's common knowledge and has been mentioned in these comment sections literally hundreds of times.

  • Matt Wood Aug 7, 2014
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    I so tired of constantly reading this "no one is getting raises in the private sector" claim. Perhaps those not getting raises should reflect on their own poor performance and the poor performance of their under-performing employer (or well-performing employer who pockets the money themselves instead of rewarding their employees). How's THAT for taking some personal responsibility for your own situation?

  • 42_wral_mods_suck_i'm_gone Aug 7, 2014

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    As a bonus you get to sleep with lobbyists and if caught you get a fat severance package to resign.

  • AppStgrad Aug 7, 2014

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    The pay scale that was in effect when many, many current teachers made the conscious choice to go into education has been ignored (dare I say violated) for 6 years now. Teachers were promised fair, slowly increasing pay as a reward for continuing good service. That promise was repeatedly broken, so teachers are understandably upset. And under the new scale, they continue to be disrespected and devalued.

  • Brandon White Aug 7, 2014
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    You can tell a lot about character, from the decorum they exhibit in difficult times. Especially when their own choices put them in those difficult times. First, due to your Lord and Savior King Obama and this wonderful economy no one is getting large salary increases. Two, you made a conscious choice to go into education. If you did not like the pay scale why did you choose the profession?

  • Jackson Smith Aug 7, 2014
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    I just love it when the legislature removes funding for an activity and then they cap what the schools can charge. Drivers Ed now gets no state money but the schools are only allowed to charge $65 per student for this. Last year when state money was provided, the systems could charge $55. Chew on that as an accurate example. Loss of a million here and a million there sooner or later adds up to real money. That for your concerns and caring Stam.

  • Jeremy Gilchrist Aug 7, 2014
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    If you really want a raise go and work for Thom Tillis. Apparently he has no problem using as much taxpayer money for his staff as possible.