Governor Pat McCrory and legislative leaders are hoping you just look at the headlines this week about teacher pay and don’t actually read the stories about their education plan or talk to your child’s teacher about it.
“Plan touts teacher raise” was the News & Observer front page headline. “McCrory: Increase teacher base pay $4,200” was the way the Charlotte Observer put it. You might think that McCrory was giving every teacher a raise, long overdue in North Carolina as the state ranks near the bottom of the 50 states in how much teachers make.
But you’d be wrong. McCrory is not proposing to give all teachers a well-deserved salary increase. He only wants to raise the pay of starting teachers and those who have spent only a few years in the classroom. That means veteran teachers, as many as 60,000 of them, would get nothing under McCrory’s plan—nothing.
The base pay for starting teachers would increase from the current $30,800 to $33,000 next year and $35,000 the year after that.
The pay for a hardworking high school chemistry teacher who has been in the classroom for 12 years would remain the same.
So would the salary for a second grade teacher who has been helping kids learn to read for 15 years. No raise, and by the way, the teacher assistant who used to be there to help until her job was eliminated last year by McCrory’s budget, she won’t be coming back either.
The veteran second grade teacher is on her own with no teacher assistant and no pay increase. And there’s a good chance there won’t be enough math or spelling books to go around.
Textbooks cost anywhere from $35-$85. The budget signed by Governor McCrory last year provides a total of $15 per student for textbooks.
There’s a good chance that the high school chemistry teacher has more students this year than last, as lawmakers slashed funding for teacher positions and told local school systems they could make up the difference by increasing class sizes.
And it’s certain that the students struggling in the second grade or in high school chemistry won’t have a counselor to turn to if they have serious problems and it’s likely a school nurse won’t be around if they get sick.
Both teachers will have to reach deeper into their own pockets to buy supplies. Not only did McCrory’s budget cut funding for supplies, it eliminates a state tax break teachers received when they were forced to buy supplies on their own.
Teachers in North Carolina at least used to have chances for professional development, to talk to their peers about how to do their jobs better and how to cope with dwindling budgets and larger classes.
But McCrory’s Republican colleagues in the General Assembly wiped out most of the funding for professional development. Teachers are on their own now.
And they can’t even be sure they’ll have a job next year. McCrory and legislative leaders ended career status for teachers too and replaced it with temporary contracts with varying lengths based on vague criteria that have teachers and administrators confused.
Even an across the board salary increase wouldn’t address all of that but it would at least be a start. A salary increase that leaves 65,000 veteran hardworking teachers out in the cold certainly doesn’t do much to boost the morale of the state’s teacher corps.
Rep. Rick Glazier’s reaction to McCrory’s anemic proposal was to point out that any salary plan should be fair, sustainable and comprehensive. McCrory’s is none of those. And it does nothing to address the massive budget cuts in the last few years that make it more difficult for all teachers to do their jobs.
That’s why he wants you to just read the headlines.