McCrory announces plans for 2017 education budget proposal

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JAMESTOWN, N.C. -- Gov. Pat McCrory was in Jamestown today to announce his plans for the 2017 education budget proposal.

He graduated from Ragsdale High School in 1975 and referenced former teachers who made a difference in his life. The governor said education should be the state’s priority budget item.

At the top of his budget ideas was “respecting and rewarding” teachers so they stay in education.

He proposed a 5 percent average pay increase for educators, including teachers, certified support staff and administrators. McCrory said the average teacher salary would be $50,000, more than $60,000 when accounting for benefits. He also proposed 3.5 percent bonuses.

“The bonuses will range from $1,100 bonuses for teachers with zero to 24 years of experience and a $5,000 bonus for teachers with 25 or more years of experience, which we think will help with some of the attrition,” the governor said.

Ragsdale English teacher Colton Weaver said the pay raises are a welcome idea. “Most of the teachers I know, especially young teachers, are living paycheck to paycheck and working two or three other jobs. And that does diminish the quality of education for students because teachers are worried about paying bills and affording groceries.”

McCrory is also asking for funding to help recruit new teachers. “We are now going to invest $2 million additional dollars to establish a scholarship to attract new highly-qualified math and science teachers,” he explained.

The governor highlighted other goals, such as a scholarship fund for special needs students so parents can pick the school their child attends and make sure it’s one that can handle their child’s specific disability.

McCrory discussed investing in more equipment at community colleges and increasing subsidies for students heading to a state university.

The budget will also allot an additional $29 million to bring Wi-Fi to every public school in the state by 2018. He said only 22 percent of schools had Wi-Fi when he took office and that number will be 67 percent by the end of this year.

Weaver said teachers still need more funding for resources in the classroom. “I find books in our rooms that my dad learned with -- that had his name in it from when he went to Ragsdale. If we’re still doing that in this world in the digital age, teaching with an industrial model, we are behind the times.”

Interim Guilford County Schools Superintendent Nora Carr agrees with the idea of rewarding educators but she pointed out that the district would like to see an increase in per-pupil funding, too. “We’d really like to see that turnaround. I think on a per pupil basis we’re still in the bottom five or 10 of states across the country.”

The education budget press conference came only hours after PayPal announced it is withdrawing plans to bring 400 jobs and an operations center to Charlotte. They decided to bring the project elsewhere because of controversial HB2.

McCrory fielded questions about PayPal saying in part, “While I respect disagreement, I went to high school here at Ragsdale where the locker rooms we used right down the hall here in downstairs was separated for boys and girls. And that is, frankly, a policy and standard that I think should remain.”

Progress NC released a statement in reaction to the governor’s education plan that said in part, “The governor’s proposal is just an election year gimmick designed to distract voters from his dismal education record that now has North Carolina ranked as the second worst state for teachers. Even if Pat McCrory's teacher pay plan was adopted, there are serious questions on what areas of education would be cut to pay for it.  McCrory's tax cuts for corporations and people at the top have already led to shortages of classroom supplies and textbooks and fewer teaching assistants.”