Budget Consensus Reached, 'Largest Teacher Pay Increase In State History'
Senate and House leaders have announced the framework of their $21 billion dollar state budget deal. One of the biggest sticking points was over teacher pay; the compromise offers public school teachers an average seven percent raise. Senate leader Phil Berger touted the plan at a press conference earlier today.
"The $282 million dollars invested in teacher pay with this budget will be the largest teacher pay increase in state history, moving North Carolina from 46th in the nation to 32nd in the nation in national teacher pay rankings," Berger said.
Berger says the plan preserves teacher assistants in second and third grades. But it gives school districts the option of using some of the money set aside for TA's to fully fund certified teachers instead. The budget moves $65 million worth of funding out of the teaching assistant line item into money that can be used to pay full teachers.
State leaders say the proposal also preserves current Medicaid eligibility and provides most state employees a thousand dollar pay raise as well as five extra vacation days.
The budget also contains several other provisions:
- It extends extra pay for teachers with Master's degrees who have completed at least one course in a graduate program as of August 1, 2013.
- The plan increases pay for step-eligible Highway Patrol Troopers between five and six percent.
- It sets aside 10 million dollars for a film grant program. Legislators are allowing the state's current incentives for film and television productions to expire at the end of the year.
- Teaching assistants and other non-certified school employees would get a $500 pay raise
Democratic leaders, who have been largely shut out of the budget negotiation process, have criticized Republican budget writers. They argue that many of the negotiations have been conducted behind closed doors, where lawmakers are crafting a "fantasy budget."
"Once again, out-of-state corporations, millionaires, they get the gold mine," said Democratic leader Larry Hall. "Citizens of North Carolina regarding education and healthcare, they're getting the shaft."
Critics have argued that tax cuts passed by Republicans last year have benefited wealthy taxpayers and corporations, and are costing the state much more than lawmakers previously claimed.
Susan Fisher, a Democratic representative from Buncombe County, argued that Democrats, as well as the public, have not had a chance to reflect on the bill.
"What we see is what we get, no one gets to have any input, then they'll ram them [conference bills] through both chambers, then they'll go home and say look what a great job we did," Fisher said.