Wake seeks top billing in NC for teacher salaries
Posted June 2
Updated June 3
Raleigh, N.C. — The Wake County Board of Commissioners is gunning for the top spot statewide in terms of local supplements to teacher salaries.
The county currently adds up to $6,200 to the state-funded salary of teachers, but Chairman Phil Matthews said Monday that the county wants to top the $6,400 supplement that Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools now pays its teachers. He said the board recognizes a top-notch school system is critical to economic development across the county.
"Our target is to make teachers in Wake County No. 1 in supplemental pay," Matthews said. "Our intent is to take care of our teachers where we can."
No details about where the money will come from were discussed, but the Board of Commissioners is expected to make some decisions on the issue at its June 9 work session.
Matthews said raising the local supplement is only a short-term goal, and the board asked County Manager Jim Hartmann to work with school Superintendent Jim Merrill on long-term plans for teacher pay.
Hartmann left funding for teacher raises out of the budget he presented to county commissioners two weeks ago, saying he wanted to see how the legislature addressed teacher pay before committing any money toward it.
The state Senate passed a budget on Saturday that creates a pay scale for teachers who give up their career status, or tenure rights. Teachers moving to the new scale would receive an average 11 percent raise. The House is expected to begin working on its budget proposal this week.
The Wake County Board of Education last month approved a $1.37 billion operating budget that included an additional $29 million to fund a 3.5 percent pay raise for teachers and school staff.
“I’m optimistic … but our request was just the first step in a five-year plan to get the school system where it needs to be," school board Chairwoman Christine Kushner said of the commissioners' push for higher supplements. "I don’t want to lose sight that our budget requests included raises for teacher assistants and bus drivers and other school employees whose salaries have been stagnant for years.”
Matthews said providing the $29 million requested "would require a lot of looking at and would cost another tax increase."
Still, several teachers and local residents urged commissioners to do everything possible to support teachers.
"Our schools provide local businesses with their workforces, and this human talent is vital for our community’s success," business owner Emily Parks said. "It is with a strong school system that Wake County can compete to bring in new businesses, big businesses that will hire our neighbors and contribute taxes."
Former teacher Beth Dickinson said she made $7,000 more a year in Florida 12 years ago than what she could make in Wake County now if she returned to the classroom.
"It won’t take much to turn this tide. It will simply take a little more respect," Dickinson said. "I ask you to change our priorities and not wait to see what the state does in regards to pay."