RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Mike Easley and former Gov. Jim Hunt have each called public education his top priority. This year, in an effort to move North Carolina teachers closer to the national average salary, Easley is proposing a 5 percent average pay hike for educators.
For other state workers, he’s asking 2½ percent.
If Easley’s plan is approved, it would be the 12th year in a row that teachers got more of a raise than other state workers. They all work for the state of North Carolina, and the disparity often creates resentment.
Deborah Rosenella teaches fifth grade at Wake County's Swift Creek Elementary. After 15 years in the classroom, she said she shows up for the children, not for the money.
“As a professional, we should be more equitable with other professions,” Rosenella said Monday.
Cindy Honeycutt is an administrative officer for the Department of Revenue. With 14 years in as a state worker, she also wants what she feels is fair pay.
“It just kind of makes you feel like you're not being paid for what you do, and it makes the morale very, very low,” Honeycutt said.
The governor's budget may chip away more of that morale.
“It just makes us angry a little bit that we work just as hard as they do,” Honeycutt said.
“I'd like to see everyone get more,” Rosenella said, explaining that she doesn't see it as teachers versus other state workers. She does defend the value of her profession, however.
“It's hard to say my job is more important than anyone else's job, but, I tell my children all the time that I think have the single most important job there is—maybe other than the president.
Honeycutt doesn't disagree, but she points out that state government is full of valuable employees who don't teach.
“They deserve what they get, too, but in the same respect, we do too. We should be treated equally,” Honeycutt said.
Non-teaching employees also argue that teachers qualify for bonuses that the rest of the state work force cannot get.
Teachers respond that their average pay is still more than $5,000 below the national average.
It will be up to legislators to weigh the arguments and sort it out.