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Republicans Plan To Pay Some NC Teachers More, Democrats Scoff

Pat McCrory
Dave DeWitt

Republican leaders in North Carolina have announced a plan to increase teacher compensation. It would raise the starting salary for new teachers, making North Carolina much more competitive in what it pays new teachers – especially when measured against southern states like Virginia, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

Governor Pat McCrory chose his old high school, Ragsdale High in Guilford County, to announce the plan to pay new teachers a more competitive salary.

Within the hour, the highly-staged display of Republican solidarity was broadcast about 90 miles away on massive screens inside the Raleigh Convention Center’s main ballroom to 1,300 educators, policymakers, and advocates gathered for the Emerging Issues Forum on Teaching and the Great Economic Debate.

“Well, I’m pleased to announce that over the next two years this team has got an agreement that we will increase by nearly 14 percent over the next two years, the base pay for teachers to $35,000 per year,” McCrory said.

When video of McCrory making the announcement was played in the Convention Center, no one clapped. Most people stared straight ahead. Some shook their heads slowly. No one looked pleased.

“If I’m not valued enough for me to receive some sort of compensation, what incentive is there to stay in the state?” said Ryne Jones, a first-year French teacher at Millbrook High School in Raleigh. “I believe there’s a point where you have to say: Are world-class educators worth at least the national average?”

Democratic lawmakers were quick to criticize the plan.

Pat McCrory
Credit Dave DeWitt
Gov. Pat McCrory explains his plan to pay new teachers more to the Emerging Issues Forum on Monday. Former Gov. Jim Hunt, Emerging Issues Director Anita Brown-Graham and NC State University Chancellor Randy Woodson look on.

  “It’s a campaign year stunt, gimmick, whatever you want to call it,” said Rep. Larry Hall, the Democratic leader in the State House. “It’s not a comprehensive plan and it’s not backed by any long-term funding proposal. So it’s bad timing, it’s positioned badly and it does not engender confidence from the public.”

It’s unlikely Hall and the other Democrats will be able to do much to alter legislation that has the backing of all Republican leaders. Phil Berger, Thom Tillis, and Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest all joined Governor McCrory for the announcement, and called the Democratic response “embarrassing but not surprising.”

“We know we have the resources in order to do this,” said Berger. “And it’s important. We’ve prioritized our spending to make sure that we give this raise to those teachers who, everyone we speak with in education tells us, if you’ve got limited resources, this is the place to target your resources.”

Berger made a point to say that none of the plans will require new taxes. He also said the improving economy and tough choices made by the Legislature made the plan possible.

A few hours after the Republicans formally announced their proposal, Governor Pat McCrory arrived in front of the skeptical audience at the Emerging Issues Forum.

His message was largely unchanged, although in a room with veteran teachers from all of North Carolina’s 100 counties, he spoke about more to come…

“Now, let me emphasize: this is only the first step in a larger, more comprehensive plan to fund excellence in the classroom by ensuring that an effective and well-paid teacher is in every classroom in North Carolina,” said McCrory.

McCrory said he will lay out other proposals to increase teacher salaries - and accountability - in the coming months. 

Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Supervising Editor for Politics and Education. As an editor, reporter, and producer he's covered politics, environment, education, sports, and a wide range of other topics.
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