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Bills favor teacher pay raises over bonuses

Posted February 23, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— Bills before the North Carolina General Assembly would change or eliminate teachers' bonuses for end-of-the-year testing and increase funding across-the-board raises for teachers.

Existing law makes teachers eligible for bonuses based on their school's overall performance on end-of-the-year testing, called ABCs. Schools that met or exceed standards – labeled high-growth schools – can apply for the bonuses.

Lawmakers might cut teachers' bonuses to fund pay raises Legislators might cut teacher bonuses for raises

Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumblerland, a sponsor of two bills regarding the ABCs, said their methods differ but share the goal of finding some funds for teacher raises amid lean economic times.

"The most important thing we can do is pay our teachers," Glazier said.

H.B. 241 would eliminate all ABC bonuses and, instead, direct nearly $94 million to pay raises for all teachers in the 2009-2010 fiscal year. That sum is equivalent to the amount appropriated for ABC bonuses in the previous budget.

"It's to create an opportunity to look at a teacher salary increase, if that's at all possible, using money that's already designated but in a different way," Glazier said.

H.B. 242 would make fewer schools eligible for ABC bonuses. Staff at schools that meet expectations would not get bonuses; only those at schools that exceed expectations would get them. That would free about $20 million in funding for general pay raises and leave about $74 million for ABC bonuses.

"I have real problems, as well, with just the idea that we're paying people bonuses to meet expectations," Glazier said.

Sherri Strickland, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said she supports the priorities expressed in the two bills.

"We certainly are willing to look at some other options for the ABC bonus money at this time with our priority being the overall salaries," Strickland said.

But, she said, H.B. 241 would go father to catching up North Carolina teachers' salaries with the national average.

"The institution of a cap indicates that the more schools who jump over the hurdle, the less money there will be," Strickland said. "Overall, salary has much more to do with whether or not we are able to recruit or retain (teachers)."

In 2007-2008, about 80 percent of teachers statewide were eligible for bonuses. About half of public schools earned the designation as high-growth schools, and a little more than a quarter met expectations on ABC tests.

Lawmakers established the ABC bonus program in 1996 but have been criticized for under-funding it.

Amid the budget crunch last year, the program got about $13 million less than the State Board of Education had requested. That cut bonuses for teachers at high-growth schools from $1,500 to $1,053 and for teachers at schools that met expectations from $750 to $527.

Strickland said lawmakers should pay out the remainder of those bonuses.

The bills were filed in the House of Representatives last Thursday, each with three of the same Democratic sponsors – Reps. Glazier; Douglas Younge, of Hoke County; and Pricey Harrison, of Guilford County.

Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, joined as a sponsor for H.B. 241, and Rep. Cullie M. Tarleton, D-Ashe, for H.B. 242.

All five bill sponsors are members of either the House Appropriations or Education committees.


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  • Justin T. Feb 24, 2009

    "Try walking in the shoes of a teacher... for just one day,,,, and then you are allowed to post a comment."

    OK. It took awhile but I finally convinced a teacher to sell me a pair of shoes and I have put them on (kinda tight since they are pumps). Now here's my comment:

    Giving bonuses for end of year testing seems like a terrible idea. It would seem to put emphasis on passing a standardized, one time test instead of giving them a well-rounded education.

    Matter of fact... the only teachers I can remember that "made a difference" taught us to THINK, not just to test well. The best public school teacher I had... now runs his own private school!! Talk about a smart guy!

  • hokiehi96 Feb 24, 2009

    As a teacher myself I have yet to see any other teacher 'work harder' to earn a bonus. The majority of us are doing the best we can with what we have. I say...take that bonus money and use it to increase funding for in-house, specific staff development to IMPROVE CORE INSTRUCTION. Teachers who aren't trained in best practices can't produce best results.

  • amyrn Feb 24, 2009

    Please note that a lot of the workers you see standing by the road are NOT DOT employees. Many projects are contracted out to private companies. So make sure you see the DOT emblem or something else that shows they work for the state before you assume the worst. I work for the state (home today with a sick child) and am not criping about no pay raise. I am HAPPY to have a job! I could work in the private sector for more money but I don't want to work nights and weekends (I am a nurse). Take a look at the salaries in NC. If the government would take 5% from those making over $150,000 per year, 2.5% from those making over $100K per year, give 2.5% to people making 50K to 100K per year (but top it out at 100K) and give the people making less than 50K, a 5% raise, it would help the state budget and help those making the least. I would be willing to give up a raise for those making under 25K, to get an even bigger raise.

  • cwmllc1952 Feb 24, 2009

    Easley gave the last raise to teachers and then within a couple of weeks explained how the state could not pay their medical bills.Pull in the reins and know when you are lucky to have a job.Spending is obviously still out of control.We'll never get out of the hole as long as we keep digging!

  • btb Feb 24, 2009

    NEA Lobbyists have been in high gear since the announcement of the stimulus bill, and have been using hard-ball tactics on Capital Hill to get a large slice of this money. Don't let it happen at the State level as well.

    Teachers/schools are well-represented in the stimulus bill, so until our state revenues stabilize, I think the raise/bonus issue should be shelved. There is also the infusion of eligible talent for teaching with all the recent layoffs, so using old recruiting problems as a basis for a raise is a red herring. Look at what's happening - how many people are unemployed - before buying that justification.

  • veyor Feb 24, 2009

    If any bonuses are given it should be to teachers who are at poorly performing schools. They are always, always in an area distressed financially. Money and grades run exactly parallel. But no, we give money to Cary or North Raleigh and take away money from Northampton County or some other poor district. Exactly backwards.

  • Cru_is_Back Feb 24, 2009

    Want to save money? Stop making us fill out a form for EVERYTHING! Stop sending memos that have 2 sentences on them. Everytime we go to a training the speaker hands us a 30 page handout of the exact slides he/she is presenting (copied by the county office). Stop throwing away truckloads of food each day. Have fewer bus stops...I can go on and on. Creativty is needed to fix budgets...not politics. By the way, the reason teachers are in this position to get a raise has nothing to do with teachers and EVERYTHING to do with lobbyist and teacher advocate groups.

  • gratefultoGOD Feb 24, 2009

    Try walking in the shoes of a teacher... for just one day,,,, and then you are allowed to post a comment. I went back as a teacher after being away from the school system for 20 years and I lasted 8 weeks. Believe me, if you can do it.. go for it!

  • Bendal1 Feb 24, 2009

    You've GOT to be kidding me. The Governor's saying furloughs/layoffs may be needed, non-teacher state employees can expect NO pay raise on top of increased health insurance premiums/lower coverage plus expected increases in pension payouts, and the TEACHERS may get a pay raise???

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, teachers work hard, teachers only get 10 months' salary, I have heard it all. I'm sure highway patrolmen, EMS, etc, can all lay out a case for a raise, as can anyone in this economic environment. Give it a rest; for ANYONE to be getting a raise this year when layoffs may be needed elsewhere should be a criminal offense.

  • doobedobedoodoo Feb 23, 2009

    since my kids go to private school, can I get some of my tax money back? Thanks!