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House Budget Proposes Looking To Lottery Sales To Pay For Teacher Raises

NC House

State House Republicans released a proposed budget on Tuesday that is significantly different than the Senate's spending plan in terms of education. House leaders say they want to give all public school teachers raises without making them give up their job protections.

They're also looking to pull from lottery money to pay for those raises, instead of making cuts to public education. 

Republican Representative Bryan Holloway says that they’re keeping their promises made to teachers months ago to give them pay raises – the House budget proposes an average of five percent.  

"Teachers will be put on the pay scale where they should be had their salaries not been frozen for the last six years," he says.

Holloway helped unveil the spending plan on Tuesday during a press conference.

He made small references to the Governor and Senate plans. Governor Pat McCrory wants to give an average two percent raise, while senators want to give an average 11 percent raise only to teachers who give up their tenure protections, otherwise known as career status.

"Unlike other budgets, this budget has no strings attached to it, you do not have to give up tenure or give up anything to get your pay raise," Holloway says.  

House representatives touted their plan for about half an hour. House leader Thom Tillis says their five-percent increase would get teachers to the national average in the next couple of years.

"And we’re doing it in a way that isn’t necessarily at the expense of other educational cuts," Tillis says. 

The Senate plan would get rid of all second and third-grade teacher assistants to pay for the raises. The House, on the other hand, has a different strategy. They want to pay for the raises with help from the lottery. They say that if they double the lottery’s advertising budget it would rake in an extra $106 million.

"When we had the discussion about whether or not we should consider this, we thought we could, once again, improve the integrity of the lottery and really get back to the place where it was sold to the citizen of North Carolina, where the payout and the proposition is honestly presented," he says.  

But some House lawmakers – even Republicans – say they feel wary about relying on lottery money to pay teachers. Debra Conrad, representative from Forsyth County, says she was surprised when she first heard about the idea.

"You know, I like to bank on money that you already know you have on hand, not hopes and wishes with of what might happen with the lottery commission, so to me it’s just illogical and it’s not the type of budgeting method that I would’ve use," Conrad says.  

Some house leaders defended their approach, saying that they feel confident the money will come through. 

Aside from the five percent raise, the budget also gets rid of a controversial measure that rewards only 25 percent of teachers as long as they give up their job protections. It also reinstates extra pay for teachers with master’s degrees in the subjects they teach.

Leanne Winner with the North Carolina School Boards Association says, overall, the plan would help retain high-quality teachers.  

"We are more pleased with the House budget, there were a lot of things that were of great concern in the Senate budget that this budget does just the opposite for," says Winner. 

She says the House budget is more aligned with the Governor’s budget. Both plans would fund a pilot program that would reward teachers based on things like leadership roles and subjects taught.  

"We think that's a good starting point for them -- to let some of the districts who are interested in experimenting with rewarding teachers in different ways to have that flexibility and to see what works and what doesn’t work," she says.

Democratic Representative Rick Glazier from Fayetteville also thinks there are strong elements in the House budget, but says the plan does not go far enough, that it does not undo the damage that’s occurred over the years.   

"It is not a sufficient enough commitment to where we need to go to keep the mass exodus of teachers from continuing, it doesn’t provide any professional development money, it doesn’t undo ongoing five hundred million dollars worth of cuts from teachers in the last three years," says Glazier. 

Glazier says he at least commends the pay raise.  In fact, that’s the one thing almost everyone can agree on. The proposals from the House, Senate and the Governor all want to boost the starting salaries for teachers to $33,000. The House is expected to pass it budget by the end of the week before they meet with the Senate to come up with a compromise.

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