Raleigh, N.C. — The state budget signed by Gov. Pat McCrory last week eliminates salary increases for teachers who get advanced degrees, which means teachers currently enrolled in master's programs won't get the benefit.
Wake County math teachers Josh Griffin and Michael Hoyes Jr. both took out student loans to pursue master's degrees – an accomplishment they say will make them better educators.
"I decided to go back to N.C. State for my master's," said Griffin, who has been in the classroom nearly five years. "I wanted to do more for my students."
But when they finish the program, they won't have salary supplements of about $4,500 that Wake County teachers with advanced degrees used to receive as an incentive to further their education.
"In the education profession, you are not rewarded for getting higher education, what does that teach our kids?" asked Hoyes, who has seven years of teaching experience.
Griffin will graduate just three weeks from the salary increase cut-off in 2014.
"(It means) $350 to $400 a month to pay back student tuition that I don't have, and I don't know where to get," he said.
He wrote letters to several lawmakers criticizing the budget, which in addition to eliminating the salary supplements, provides no raises for teachers and cuts school supply funding. In one reply, Griffin said, a lawmakers told him the "General Assembly does not see the advanced degree supplement as the most meaningful of teacher performance."
Eric Guckian, McCrory's senior education advisor, reiterated that the governor's budget proposal included a small salary increase for teachers that didn't make it into the final document. He said the state should move toward a performance-based salary scale.
"We need to reform the way teachers are compensated in our state," Guckian said. "We wish the budget could have done more on that."
Overall, he said, the budget provides a 4-percent increase over last year in education spending.
The Department of Public Instruction, however, says that statistic is deceiving. When growth is factored in, the budget amounts to a funding loss of at least 1.8 percent.
Hoyes said he feels increasingly disillusioned by the cuts to education and investment in teachers.
"It is almost as if they have lost faith in our ability to do what we do," he said.
He's losing faith in the system as well.
"I am going further and further in debt and leaving North Carolina," Hoyes said. "That is what I have to do to feel like what I am doing is worth something."