Local teachers say McCrory’s plan is not enough
FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — Teachers in North Carolina are unimpressed by Gov. Pat McCrory’s plan to raise the starting salary for new teachers.
The plan that was unveiled Tuesday morning by McCrory and legislative leaders at a news conference at Ragsdale High School would raise the starting salary for teachers to $35,000 over the course of two years. New teachers would see a bump of $2,200 next school year, raising base pay from $30,800 annually to $33,000. The starting salary would jump again in 2015, up to $35,000.
The move would shift North Carolina from being one of the lowest paying states in the country for new teachers to just shy of the national average.
For local teachers, it’s not enough.
“Teachers are not buying this anymore,” said Ann Petitjean, president of the Forsyth County Association of Educators. “We are not seeing a movement to really support our children. This does nothing for per-pupil expenditures, nothing for textbooks and nothing for class size.
“All it does is put a Band-Aid on a really big problem.”
That problem is two-fold: high teacher turnover as more teachers retire early, switch professions or leave to teach in another state; and growing unrest among the teachers who are left.
“This is one more divisive measure,” said Stephanie Wallace, an English teacher at East Forsyth High School who is one of six plaintiffs suing the state to challenge the repeal of career status, or tenure.
Wallace teaches the Teaching Cadet courses at East Forsyth, designed for students interested in a career in teaching.
“While I am happy for those who will receive the salary bump, it is a slap in the face to everyone else who has remained dedicated to our students and their families,” Wallace said.
Figures in the governor’s proposal do not take into account local salary supplements, which vary by county. In Forsyth County, the local supplement starts at $2,770 a year and increases depending on experience, position and level of education.
Financing for the state-proposed raises will come from additional and available revenues and will not require a tax increase, according to a news release. Speaking at a forum Monday afternoon in Raleigh, McCrory said the raise for new teachers was just a start.
Beverly Emory, superintendent for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, attended the forum and said that more needs to be done.
“This is a solid and important first step, especially as we approach our spring hiring season,” Emory said in an email. “Keeping and attracting our newer teachers, who have not seen any salary increase in their entire career, is important. However, all of our teachers and educational support staff need to be valued through some increase in compensation.”
The state’s top brass has taken heat over the last year for changes to education policy, including the repeal of tenure, cuts to funding for teaching assistants and textbooks, and a controversial voucher program. After the announcement Monday, McCrory, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis released a joint statement touting the proposal as a way to turn North Carolina “into a destination, not a layover.”
Petitjean said she sees the proposal as something else — a way to do away with the state’s salary schedule and move to merit pay. That would not be a change welcomed by teachers, she said.
“Merit pay doesn’t work in education,” Petitjean said.
The state’s proposal to replace teachers’ tenure is a contract plan that includes bonuses for the top 25 percent of teachers in each district, as determined by individual school boards.