Shifts on N.C. teacher pay continue

Mar. 13, 2014 @ 11:12 AM

Teachers in North Carolina are still among the lowest-paid in the country, according to the National Education Association. Average salaries for N.C. teachers in 2012-13 were ranked 46th in the nation, as they were for 2011-12, the NEA announced Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Caldwell County Schools are beginning to implement a new state law that requires school systems to offer $500-per-year bonuses to 25 percent of teachers in the district in exchange for the teachers accepting a four-year contract and give up their tenure status.

Administrators are still narrowing down the criteria that will determine which teachers are offered four-year contracts, but around 200 of Caldwell’s 800-some teachers will receive offers, Superintendent Steve Stone said. The school board has to approve that list before the offers begin; members are expected to do so at their April meeting.

Gov. Pat McCrory opened the door last week to seeking tweaks in the tenure law, which has been met with significant pushback from some school districts.

“The intent of the rule is very good,” McCrory told the Raleigh News & Observer. “The implementation needs to be more clarified, and I think that’s maybe something we can work on between now and the short session.”

A handful of districts have taken official stands against the 25-percent plan, saying it will hurt morale and that the “top” 25 percent of teachers aren’t alone in deserving what is essentially a pay raise. Some school boards have passed resolutions stating their opposition to the law, while others have joined a pending lawsuit planned by the Guilford County school board. (The North Carolina Association of Educators has filed a separate lawsuit.)

Stone said the Caldwell school board may consider a resolution urging legislators to reconsider the law but will not file or join a lawsuit.

“We’ll comply,” Stone said. “We’ll name our 25 percent unless the law changes. We’ll do it begrudgingly, because I don’t believe in it, but we’ll comply with the law.”

State Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, said he has not heard any formal proposals on changes to the policy’s implementation.

“I believe the governor is thinking out loud, and continuing to work with the Teacher Advisory Committee on the next phase of compensation changes and tenure laws,” Starnes said in a statement to the News-Topic.

State Sen. Dan Soucek, R-Watauga, whose district includes Caldwell County, said in an interview that he has not heard fellow legislators mention a need to clarify the law. Soucek said ending tenure is a move toward “a system where our best teachers are rewarded.”

“Part of the challenge of tenure is, it’s a system that makes it very difficult to get rid of teachers that are not serving our students well,” he said. “I support getting rid of tenure, I think that is the right solution for our students. As important as our teachers are, as the single most important factor in our education, it’s still just a factor.”