Greensboro, N.C. — In addition to seeking raises for teachers this year, Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday that he would like to overhaul their pay structure so the best teachers and those in competitive fields are compensated appropriately.
Addressing a group of state lawmakers at a Greensboro retreat hosted by the Hunt Institute, McCrory said he and education adviser Eric Guckian would roll out details of their plans in the coming weeks.
The governor said the initiatives are built on the framework of rewarding and respecting teachers and allowing them to advance professionally in the classroom.
"They all feel like they're walked over," he said of teachers, who have balked at a raft of legislation passed last year by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, including the elimination of tenure rights for veteran teachers and the elimination of extra pay for teachers with advanced degrees.
North Carolina ranks near the bottom nationally in teacher pay, and McCrory and legislative leaders have vowed to work this year on providing raises to teachers and state employees, who have seen their pay increased by only 1 percent since 2008.
"We all know the rankings, and they're not good," McCrory said. "We've got to look for the funds to do better."
Aside from that, however, he said North Carolina needs to be more innovative in how teachers are paid and not work simply off a scale that rewards seniority. He suggested tying pay to market demand or the field in which a teacher has a degree.
He said, for example, that good science and math teachers are harder to find than a good physical education teacher because people with science and math training are more in demand in the private sector, which can pay much higher salaries than school districts can afford.
McCrory also said many teachers are forced to move out of the classroom into administrative positions if they want higher pay, so the state is losing some of its top teachers.
“We ought to have an opportunity for teachers to be some of the highest-paid employees at a school," he said. "It doesn’t always have to be the principal, although they deserve it too."
The governor also addressed educational standards and technology during the 25-minute speech.
While praising improved graduation rates, he noted that test scores have been flat in recent years. That points to "a disconnect" between getting students through high school and providing them the skills needed to succeed in life, he said, and North Carolina needs to erase that if it hopes to compete internationally.
Regarding technology, he said the state needs a comprehensive plan for integrating digital resources in classrooms so districts aren't blindly spending money on systems that aren't compatible.