Teacher pay report gets chilly reception

Posted April 14, 2014
Updated April 15, 2014

— The final report of the Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force got a chilly reception Monday from teachers and some Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the panel.

The report stops short of recommending legislative action to address teacher pay this session. Instead, it recommends that lawmakers direct the State Board of Education to study the issue further and report back to lawmakers in November.

The report also recommends that lawmakers set a short-term goal to "significantly increase the salaries for entering teachers and those teachers who are most likely to leave the profession in North Carolina, i.e., teachers with less than 10 years of teacher experience." 

"As a long-term goal," the report continues, "the General Assembly should increase the salaries for all teachers." 

The document doesn't set out a timeline for either goal, or any other specifics. 

Rep. Rob Bryan, R-Mecklenburg, co-chairman of the task force, called the report  "a set of goals and principles to be applied as a specific plan is created, hopefully as soon as possible."

Bryan said most states take three to five years to work through changes to teacher compensation systems.  

Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, said the task force, which legally ends its work April 15, should be extended to work in cooperation with the Department of Public Instruction study.

"Frankly, I’m disappointed we didn’t make a lot more progress and have a lot more specificity in our recommendations," Horn said, adding that the panel didn't address salary needs of teachers in community colleges and universities. 

Panelist Ellen McIntyre, dean of the College of Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, criticized the wording of a finding that questions the value of master's degrees for teachers.

"I think the way it’s written doesn’t communicate accurately what the studies DO show. There are more studies that show a positive impact of having a master's degree," McIntyre said. "It doesn’t reflect the reality."  

Rep. Tricia Cotham, D-Mecklenburg, called the report "a bunch of fluff."

"This is a disappointing report, and it’s going to be real hard to sell. It’s going to be real hard to sell to teachers who are on spring break right now cleaning pools, cutting grass, babysitting other people’s kids, doing anything they can to make ends meet," Cotham said.

"It comes down to a few simple questions: Do we value children? Do we value teachers? Do we value education as an economic driver?" Cotham asked.

Teachers on the panel criticized the report even more bluntly.

Timothy Barnsback, a teacher representing the Professional Educators of North Carolina, said he didn't believe the educators on the panel had much input in the process.

"I’m struggling to understand why we were brought here," Barnsback said, calling the panel's four meetings "presentations and propaganda." 

Johnston County history teacher Richard Nixon said the report ignores veteran teachers who have been frozen out of their contractual pay increases for six years.

"I don’t recall anyone saying we should raise the salaries for beginning teachers and leave the rest for down the road," Nixon said.  

But another panel member, Winston-Salem teacher Rebecca Fagge, commended legislative leaders for moving slowly.

"Teachers are tired of ready, fire, aim – doing something quick just to get it done," Fagge said. "It’s a problem when we don’t take enough time to do something right."

Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, another task force co-chairman, said the recommendations include the short -term goal of raising beginning teachers' pay because the governor and legislative leaders have already committed to that plan.

"When you only have a limited amount of money, where do you start?" Tillman asked, pointing out that North Carolina's starting salary is the lowest in the Southeast. "This is a first step. We had to start somewhere. That was the No. 1 problem." 

Tillman said money that could have been used for teacher raises last year was used instead to bolster the state retirement system and health plan, both of which will benefit teachers in the long run.

Raises this year and next, he says, will depend on tax revenue. "If the money's not there, you can't spend money you don't have."

NCAE Vice President Mark Jewell said there's a reason the money's not there.  

"They chose not to give educators in North Carolina a pay raise by giving billionaires and corporations huge tax breaks," Jewell said after the meeting, referring to the 2013 tax reform package. "Rolling back that 2 percent tax break for the wealthiest people would fund for every educator a significant salary increase." 

He said he's hopeful that the short session will bring a pay raise proposal "that will honor and reward every teacher in North Carolina with a pay increase." 

Bryan called the report "one small step."

"I think we’ve tried not to be overly political. Maybe we haven’t been political enough," he responded. "We wanted to be careful about creating a document most folks could agree with the principles of."


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  • Bill Brasky Apr 16, 2014

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    Our soldiers are properly funded...Government paid your housing, clothing food.....they even supplied you with weapons. Teachers on the other hand, have to steal things from home to bring to work due to an underfunded public education system.

  • LetsBeFair Apr 16, 2014

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    Try moving to Mass, see if you can afford it .. even on their teacher pay.

  • LetsBeFair Apr 16, 2014

    when I was defending my country in uniform, I never did it for the money and it was a lot less.

  • Doug Pawlak Apr 16, 2014
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    Well there's some truth to that here in NC as we're not anywhere near states like Massachusetts, Maryland, and Pennsylvania in teacher pay and never have been but dems are much more friendly than republicans. The evidence for that is overwhelming.

  • lazyrebel Apr 16, 2014

    So new teachers get a raise, what about the ones that have been in the system for over 10 years, they are just screwed.

  • Greg Boop Apr 16, 2014
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    Please take a look at the 2014 Teacher Pay scale to understand that traditionally teachers get a step up each year automatically as their experience level increases - this aligns with practices in other states. Now the state has stopped giving the step up increases and stopped the master's degree bump - putting North Carolina at a huge disadvantage when recruiting teachers - and also breaking our state's commitments to the teachers when they were hired


  • rtb Apr 16, 2014

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    Also, I'm not sure where you are getting your numbers. This is what I have for legislative increases since 2002. Maybe teachers and state employees were different for some of those years?

    2002: 0%
    2003: 0%
    2004: Greater of 2.5% or $1,000
    2005: Greater of 2.0% or $850
    2006: 5.5%
    2007: 4.0%
    2008: Greater of 2.75% or $1,100 2009: 0% 2010: 0% 2011: 0% 2012: 1.2% 2013: 0%

  • Larry Lynch Apr 16, 2014
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    is there any doubt left among educators that both demo's and repub's are HOSTILE to giving yall the overdue raises yall deserve? neither party has teachers/state employees as a priority.

  • Greg Boop Apr 16, 2014
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    The last report showed that were over 7,000 open education positions across the state that school systems have been unable to fill with qualified full-time candidates for 90 days or more. The situation keeps getting worse every month. Keep in mind that our state employs approx. 105,000 teachers.

  • Greg Boop Apr 16, 2014
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    You appear to forget the part that the step raises that teachers get automatically every year have been stopped since 2009 -effectively destroying the contractual commitments made by the state when they were hired. Currently 1st year teachers that start out of school will get no step pay raise for the first 7 years of their career, they also took away the master's degree pay bump (NC is now the only state not providing a pay bump for master's).

    The previous pay raises you cited were put in place simply to catch North Carolina up to the teacher pay offered by other states - an initiative originally started by Gov. Hunt. North Carolina was already drastically behind in teacher pay, and now we rank 46th in the nation - and our best teachers are fleeing to neighboring states that offer $10K more in pay and better benefits/conditions.