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Wake County Schools has new incentives for teachers with master's degrees, bus drivers with perfect attendance

A Wake County Public Schools bus.
Brian Batista
A Wake County Public Schools bus.

The Wake County school board voted Tuesday night on two salary measures to boost recruitment and retention of teachers and support staff as North Carolina schools continue to face difficulty staffing certain positions.

Wake County Schools is reinstating advanced degree pay for teachers, social workers, speech language pathologists, audiologists, guidance counselors and psychologists who hold master’s degrees or higher and would have been eligible for the pay under a repealed state policy.

In 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly ended state-funded master's pay for teachers who began their degree programs after that year. At the time, lawmakers who supported the change argued that holding an advanced degree did not necessarily improve a teachers’ effectiveness. The law also eliminated higher pay for other certified school positions such as social workers, while grandfathering-in employees who qualified for the higher pay scale before 2013.

“This has created a challenge for us as we have employees who are paid differently even though they have comparable years of experience and do the same work,” said Wake County Schools' Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources AJ Muttillo.

Wake County Schools will use recurring local funds to restore additional pay for about 650 school employees who earned their degrees after the state's cut off year. Teachers and social workers who qualify for holding a master’s degree will receive a 10% raise in their base pay.

Several Wake County school board members applauded the board's vote, and some lamented that the General Assembly has not taken action to restore the benefit statewide.

“It's sobering to think that the legislature made this change almost 10 years ago, and it's taken us this long,” said board member Lynn Edmonds. “They're the ones that should have corrected it.”

Wake County school employees will receive the benefit beginning in July. The district will also use the supplement as a recruitment tool as it seeks to fill positions.

“This proposal could separate us from other districts, not only in North Carolina, but also in the nation,” Muttillo told the board. “We have lots of states who not only incentivize master's pay, but in some cases still require it.”

The school board also approved a $200 monthly bonus for school bus staff who have perfect attendance each month, to help prevent canceling bus runs due to a shortage of drivers. The transportation bonus will be funded using money the department has saved on salaries due to vacancies.

That bonus is in addition to one the school board previously passed that allows transportation staff to earn $500 each semester for good attendance.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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