Wake leaders considering teacher raises in 2014-15 budget
Posted May 30, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Phil Matthews said Friday that there will likely be some movement in the county's recommended 2014-15 budget that "should be a positive step" for teachers, who could see a salary increase under the local school system's spending plan.
Last month, the Board of Education approved a $1.37 billion operating budget that includes an additional $29 million to fund a 3.5 percent pay raise for teachers and school staff.
But County Manager Jim Hartmann left the funding out of the budget he presented to county commissioners last week, saying he wants to wait to see how the legislature addresses teacher pay before committing any money toward it.
Since then, commissioners say they have been inundated with emails calling for budget changes.
"We're hearing from teachers. We're hearing from parents and the community," Commissioner Caroline Sullivan said.
"It’s always challenging, and it is always a balance. A budget is a value statement. It says what you value in the community," Sullivan added. "We're going to try really hard to be able to find something we can do for teachers now short-term and then look at some sort of pathway going forward that’s sustainable and meaningful."
Commissioners will meet June 9 for a work session, after the public gets a chance to weigh in on the budget proposal.
That hearing is set for 2 p.m. Monday in Room 2700 at the Wake County Justice Center in downtown Raleigh.
Advocates for a pay raise say they plan to be there.
"I feel like the community needs to tell commissioners this can't stand," said Betsy Bennett, who has a daughter in 10th grade at Broughton High School in Raleigh.
As a business owner, Bennett said she's well aware of the connection between the quality of teaching and the quality of the local economy.
"To me, it's like an electrician. You don't hire the cheapest electrician, because you could have a fire in your house," she said. "It's so important, and I feel like our teachers are so important that we need to pay them better than we are."
Budget writers in the Senate want to use $468 million to fund salary increases for all North Carolina public school teachers. That, however, could mean cutting other areas of the state education budget, including funding for teaching assistants.
After previous state budgets have failed to provide pay raises for teachers, some educators now say they are relying on local politicians.
"I think we've lost hope that anything positive is going to happen on the state level anytime soon," said Broughton history teacher Lee Quinn. "This moment, now, requires our local leaders to take action. Without that, we're in a worse place and still subject to the whims of the legislature."
Dave Corsetti, a physics teacher, said he sees this as an opportunity for Wake County to support its teachers and the school system.
"If they choose not to do that, what kind of message does that send to the voting public?" he said. "I feel like we're at a tipping point with the teachers in Wake County and something needs to change to make it better."