NC school districts encouraged but concerned about state budget
Posted June 17, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Leaders from four North Carolina school districts held a news conference Tuesday, thanking state lawmakers for their efforts to raise teacher pay but urging them to reconsider some of the paths to get there.
Speaking on behalf of a consortium of the state’s 10 largest school districts, superintendents from school systems in Cumberland, Johnston, New Hanover and Wake counties said they couldn’t stand to lose teaching assistants under a Senate plan that calls for roughly half of the positions in elementary schools to be eliminated to offset the cost.
“Creating salary increases by slashing other areas (of education) is not a formula for academic success,” Tim Markley, superintendent of New Hanover County Schools, said.
In exchange for the cuts, the Senate budget would give an average raise of about $5,800 – depending on seniority – to teachers who voluntarily relinquish their rights to career status, commonly referred to as tenure.
The House plan, approved Friday, promises an average 5 percent teacher pay raise by boosting the amount of money coming from the state lottery. It does not cut teaching assistant positions, and unlike the Senate budget, House members do not tie the prospect of raises to relinquishing tenure.
Because lottery money can be used to pay school debt, Johnston County Schools Superintendent Ed Croom said, school districts would be forced to reallocate funding from other spending areas.
“It just creates a situation in a budget where you’re taking from one and giving to another,” he said.
Still, leaders said they are encouraged that the two proposals, as well as one from Gov. Pat McCrory call for pay raises.
“We believe state leaders are having the right kind of discussions,” Wake County Public School System Superintendent Jim Merrill said.
Markley and Merrill said teachers in the state have gone more than five years without a meaningful increase, and that’s made it difficult to fill positions.
“If you fail to invest in your employees, they leave,” Merrill said. “This what superintendents are seeing as we prepare for the upcoming school year.”
Merrill said his district could be facing as many as 1,000 open teaching positions for the 2014 fall semester.