MONROE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A controversial North Carolina school plan to pay teachers based on performance could be put to the test soon.

The plan to pilot teacher merit-based pay just passed an advisory commission to the state board of education in North Carolina. The proposal is getting mixed reviews, and some, like the Union County Public Schools superintendent, do not believe it’s the answer to teacher hiring and retention.

North Carolina, like other states, is scrambling to get people to choose to be public school teachers.

“I’m all for rewarding our teachers; they deserve everything we can give to them,” said Dr. Andrew Houlihan, Superintendent of Union County Public Schools.

Dr. Andrew Houlihan

Dr. Houlihan disagrees with a plan currently under consideration to link teachers’ base salary with their performance in the classroom.

“When you’re tying base pay to different kinds of criteria like student growth, principal and assistant principal evaluations, which can be very subjective sometimes when you’re tying it into things like student surveys and that becomes your base pay, what we’ve learned from the way our principal salaries are being implemented by the state is from year to year, your salary can change,” Dr. Houlihan said.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt was unavailable for an interview Wednesday with Queen City News. Truitt, a Republican, told the North Carolina Council of State earlier this month in Raleigh that the merit-based pay plan should help get younger teachers in the door because they can see a path for growth and advancement.

Catherine Truitt

“Right now, we compensate teachers on two things: years of experience and degrees held, and the research tells us that neither one of those things actually impacts student outcomes, so we need to have a new teacher pay plan that does everything that I’ve described but attracts more young people to the profession because they are not choosing to go into education,” Truitt told N.C. Council of State attendees recently.

Teachers stand to make more under the performance pay plan.

Dr. Houlihan says the state can still raise the current starting teacher base salary of $37,000 annually across the board and keep that separate from merit pay.

“If you want to reward teachers for their performance, please do that, but do that as a bonus,” said Dr. Houlihan.

The North Carolina Board of Education must approve the pilot plan. After that, the General Assembly would have to fund it before any county school districts could volunteer to test it out.