RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The head of the state teachers association said she’s disappointed with the raises in the state Senate’s proposed budget.

The Senate budget shows us their priorities are not with our public school students and educators,” said North Carolina Association of Educators president Tamika Walker Kelly.

The proposal provides an average increase of 4.5% over two years, which is lower than the House’s proposed 10% average raise or Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposed 18%.

Senate leaders noted that their budget increases pay for first-year teachers by 11%.

“Starting pay increased to $39,000 in the first year of the biennium and $41,000 in the second year,” said Senator Michael Lee, a Republican from New Hanover County during a Tuesday budget hearing.  

Walker Kelly said veteran teachers aren’t seeing substantial increases, though.

“It is not enough,” she said. “We know our veteran mentor teachers provide stability to school communities and their beginning teacher staff, and so we know how critically important it is to make sure we have equitable distribution of raises throughout the teaching scale.”

She said some teachers struggle to make ends meet, sometimes working multiple jobs.

“When they feel like they aren’t compensated for their professional skill sets and duties, it leads them to leave the profession all together,” Kelly told CBS 17. 

Still, she’s still optimistic that the state’s final budget will offer more for educators.

“We hope that we are able to work with our lawmakers across the aisle to raise those salaries so that we can continue to recruit and retain the best educators here in the state of North Carolina,” she said.