Local News

Perdue's education spending raises red flags for some

Posted April 27, 2010 6:53 p.m. EDT
Updated April 28, 2010 7:10 a.m. EDT

State leaders and education advocates are raising a red flag when it comes to Gov. Bev Perdue's 2010-11 budget proposal, which calls for a 1.5 percent salary step increase for teachers.

"It's clear that we don't pay teachers enough," Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake, said. "Having said that, this might not be the year, in my opinion, to do additional pay."

They say that, although they believe teachers need to be paid more, this year might not be the right time, because the governor is also calling for $135 million in educational discretionary cuts.

That's in addition to $80 million in cuts already approved last year by the General Assembly.

The North Carolina Association of Educators projects the proposed cuts, coupled with a salary increase, could put the jobs of approximately 2,200 teachers and more than 1,000 teaching assistants in jeopardy.

The group wants to take the $61 million needed to fund the teacher raises, as well as another $62.5 million to pay back last year's employee furloughs, and put the amount toward covering a most of the $135 million in discretionary cuts.

Perdue has said she believes local school systems should better utilize federal funding to protect teaching jobs.

To recruit and retain good teachers, she wants to ensure that salaries don't fall further behind the national average of $48,600. Last year, North Carolina ranked 25th in the nation; it dropped to 31st this year.

"Even bigger than that, we do want all of our public school employees to remain employed," North Carolina Association of Educators President Sheri Strickland said.

Strickland said the group is holding out hope that lawmakers will increase pay and still be able to reduce the amount of discretionary cuts. After speaking with lawmakers, though, the group acknowledges that's unlikely.

"Our first order of business is keeping classroom sizes at a reasonable level, keep as many of the teachers in the classrooms as possible," Strickland said.