As the state legislature hammers out a final state budget for next year, teacher advocates have concerns with part of the proposed Senate budget. It would take away state-paid health retirement benefits for future state employees and teachers. That's currently a major perk of working long term as an educator or state employee.
Senate leader Phil Berger's spokesperson Shelley Carver explained, "North Carolina has a massive $26 billion unfunded liability for retiree medical coverage, and the Senate budget is a prudent way to address the long-term viability of the State Health Plan."
In a statement, Carver added, "The proposed change to eligibility would only apply to future employees hired after January 1, 2016, and would ensure that current state employees are not affected and maintain their coverage throughout their retirement."
Lee Childress is a special needs teacher at Carter High School in Forsyth County. He says the Association of Educators has been sending them updates about the state budget. "It’s not right for teachers. It’s not right for any state employees. It’s just not."
He worries the suggested cuts would hurt educator recruitment and retention efforts in North Carolina. "Teachers will not stay here. They will go elsewhere or they will get out of the profession altogether. That will be a very sad state here in North Carolina if that happens."
He's also bothered that the Senate's proposed budget would eliminate more teacher assistant jobs.
The Guilford County Association of Educators President-Elect Angela Jackson is also upset. "I have many concerns. First and foremost, we are at the bottom nationally for teacher pay and benefits. We’re having a difficult time staffing classrooms because of this."
"The future should not be balanced in a budget," Jackson added.