Last week the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill entitled “Strengthening Educators’ Pay Act” almost entirely along party lines. As the public waits to see whether Governor Cooper will sign the bill or veto it, it’s worth taking a closer look at exactly what this bill does–and what it doesn’t do.
But first, let’s review what Governor Cooper himself proposed on educator pay.
In early July, Cooper sent a budget compromise to leaders in the General Assembly calling for an increase in teacher pay which would average 8.5% over two years, restoration of master’s degree supplements that state legislators stripped in 2013, and a 5% pay increase for non-certified school staff, among other things.
That proposal was met with cricket noises from the legislature.
Now state lawmakers have passed a new educator pay raise bill and sent it to the Governor.
Here’s what the General Assembly’s bill would do for educators this year and next:
- Teachers with 16-20 years of experience will receive a $50/month increase for 2019-20 as compared to last year’s salary schedule. For school year 2020-21, teachers with that amount of experience will receive a $50/month increase.
- Teachers with 21-24 years of experience will receive a $150/month increase as compared to last year’s salary schedule. For school year 2020-21, teachers with that amount of experience will receive a $50/month increase.
- Teachers with 25 or more years of experience will receive a $60/month increase as compared to last year’s salary schedule. For school year 2020-21, teachers with that amount of experience will receive a $50/month increase.
While there is some variance in raises based upon level of experience, in general the additional pay should just about cover the case of copy paper you’ll still need to buy after the General Assembly cut funding for classroom supplies 55% over the last decade, perhaps with enough left over for a couple tanks of gas to get you to your second job.
It’s also important to note that, for the 2020-21 school year, the language of the bill reads “it is the intent of the General Assembly” to raise salaries rather than using the word “shall” as it does for the current school year. That means the raises for next year are not guaranteed.
If teachers with 0-15 years of experience are wondering what kind of raises they’ll see over the next two school years, there’s news on that front as well.
For school year 2019-20, here’s the pay raise those teachers will receive:
For school year 2020-21 this will be their increase:
In addition to falling far short of his compromise when it comes to teacher pay, the new bill on its way to Governor’s Cooper’s desk includes no restoration of master’s pay. Nor will the 12 month non-certified staff get the 5% raise the Governor sought. Instead, they will receive a meager 1% increase in salary in 2019-20. For 2020-21 the bill calls for another 1% raise but again refers to “intent” rather than saying it “shall” happen, meaning the increase is not guaranteed for the following year. Also, any non-certified employees who work less than 12 months will receive a prorated increase rather than the full 1%. So, for example, a 10-month employee would receive an insulting .83% raise.
Politically, the intent of state legislators is to pressure Cooper to either sign a bill which falls far short of what our public schools deserve or risk accusations that he is failing to support educators: “Why do you hate teachers so much, Governor??”
It’s the General Assembly equivalent of the classic “Why are you hitting yourself?” bully move.
State lawmakers need to know that public school educators and the general public are smarter than that. We see how you are conducting business without basic integrity, refusing to negotiate in good faith and attempting to ram an unpalatable budget through by simply waiting for Democrats to be absent for the vote. We see that your latest tax cut over the next four years will deprive us of more than $1 billion in revenue that is sorely needed in our schools in order to reduce costs for corporations that already enjoy the North Carolina’s lowest corporate tax rate in the country.
I don’t speak for every educator in the state, but I can promise I speak for a lot of us when I say that we believe our public schools deserve better than what the General Assembly is trying to pawn off on us.
That’s why we will fully support Governor Cooper’s veto of this teacher pay bill.