Raleigh, N.C. — A Senate committee on Tuesday began to close a loophole that could keep many teachers from receiving bonuses.
The state’s 2016 budget included a two-year pilot program that gives third-grade, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate teachers bonuses if they meet certain student achievement targets and continue teaching at the same school and grade at which they previously taught.
In several cases, some teachers met those achievement targets but were reassigned to different grades or out of AP/IB classes, technically disqualifying them from the bonus.
"In the legislation that was [originally] passed, we found that teachers that were able to qualify for a bonus really, on no part of their own, were transferred or reassigned … then they wouldn’t receive their bonus,” Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, said.
Kim Leake, principal of Peck Elementary School in Greensboro, said she moved a teacher from a third- to a fourth-grade class and then later found out that move cost the teacher her bonus.
"This year, she’s doing an outstanding job again, but she deserves that bonus. It was not that she asked to move. It was that I had to move her," Leake told lawmakers.
The notion of giving bonuses only to teachers who stay in their same grades and schools sparked a conversation about how teachers should be rewarded.
Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, D-Northampton, who is also a math turnaround instructor who teaches in different districts to get those schools accredited, questioned if a future bonus program would have the same requirements.
"If [the bonus] is for past performance, why does it matter if a teacher moves to another school?" Smith-Ingram asked.
Wade said requiring teachers to stay in their same schools and grades to receive bonuses for their teaching performance encourages them to continue benefiting the students and schools in which they currently work.
"I want to keep good teachers in our system," Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, said. "It may be that someone just went to a school down the street that has an equal need for good, qualifying teachers."
The Senate Education Committee approved the measure, which now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.