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Explaining NC's Teacher Pay Raises

Lawmakers voted this summer to eventually eliminate teacher tenure, replacing it with temporary contracts. The State Board of Education will discuss a model contract this week.

Governor Pat McCrory has signed a $21 billion dollar state budget that includes pay increases for teachers. He and other Republican leaders have been trying to send a loud and clear message that teachers will be getting a historic pay raise, the first major one in years.

They’ve been touting it as an average seven percent increase. But there’s been a lot of confusion over how that’ll actually pan out and whether all teachers will see a pay bump.

Here’s a fact: Every public school teacher will make more than they did last year. The state budget has a provision that would prevent teachers from making less.

So, does that mean every public school teacher will see a seven-percent raise? No.

The new salary schedule is complicated. Teachers early in their careers will see the biggest pay bumps - especially those who’ve been teaching between five and 10 years. They could see increases of up to 18 percent.

But it’s a different story for veteran teachers. Those with more than 27 years of experience will see less than a three-percent raise.

The salary scale also tops out at $50,000. Of course, there are some teachers who already make more than that. So, instead of their base salary going up, they’ll get an annual bonus check of a $1000.  

Many experienced teachers aren’t too happy with the new salary scale. They say the raises are unfairly distributed. Some even argue that it’ll encourage more veteran teachers to leave.

Another big concern and source of confusion has been over longevity pay.

Teachers with 10 or more years of experience get longevity pay as a kind of thank you for sticking around. The annual bonuses range from 1.5 to 4.5 percent.

Under the new pay scale, teachers will no longer receive those paychecks. Instead, the money will be rolled into the salary schedule. Legislators say they did that to help boost everyone’s raises.

But some teachers say that’s not fair, and that it’s wrong for lawmakers to take money they’re already earning and mark it as a pay raise.

Now, let’s move away from the salary schedule for a minute. There are other ways teachers earn money.

Those who already have a Master’s degree or who have started working toward it since last August will get extra pay. But that doesn’t apply to teachers who have yet to start to get their master’s.

There are also local supplements from school districts. All but eight of the 115 districts reward teachers with extra money. Those supplements can range from $100 to $6000 depending on district resources.

Because of that inconsistency, some teachers say they rely on raises from the state.  

Under this new pay scale, teachers will get a bump every five years and then four years of flat pay.

Supporters of the plan say that it’ll allow teachers to earn more at a much quicker rate than before. The whole idea, they say, is to recruit and retain. After years of stagnant pay, they say the state needs to remain competitive – that it can’t afford more teachers leaving.

Reema Khrais joined WUNC in 2013 to cover education in pre-kindergarten through high school. Previously, she won the prestigious Joan B. Kroc Fellowship. For the fellowship, she spent a year at NPR where she reported nationally, produced on Weekends on All Things Considered and edited on the digital desk. She also spent some time at New York Public Radio as an education reporter, covering the overhaul of vocational schools, the contentious closures of city schools and age-old high school rivalries.
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