N.C.'s starting teachers will get pay raise, lawmakers say

Feb. 11, 2014 @ 06:30 AM

North Carolina would boost the base salary for teachers by nearly 14 percent over the next two years, under a plan that state leaders announced Monday.

Legislation to raise starting teacher pay from $30,800 to $35,000 will be introduced when the General Assembly reconvenes in May, Gov. Pat McCrory said at a press conference at Ragsdale High School near Greensboro, where McCrory went to high school, with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis.

With support from Republicans McCrory, Berger and Tillis, and with large Republican majorities in the Senate and House, the legislation is considered likely to pass.

North Carolina teachers are among the lowest-paid educators in the country – ranked 46th in the nation, according to the National Education Association – which has prompted concerns about the state’s ability to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers. A base salary of $35,000 would bring North Carolina close to the national average for starting teachers, which is currently $35,672.

“Today we have begun the process that will make every North Carolina classroom a teaching destination, not a layover to another career,” McCrory said.

The plan does not address pay for teachers who already make more than $35,000, but McCrory said that state leaders are examining ways to increase pay for experienced teachers and other state employees.

Berger said legislators also plan to amend legislation passed in July that eliminated teacher pay raises tied to the completion of a master’s degree. That legislation eliminated raises for teachers who finish their degrees later than April 1, 2014, which would affect some teachers who have already started coursework.

The proposed change would make any teachers who started work on a master’s degree before July 2013 eligible for a pay increase once they receive their degree, Berger said.

State Sen. Dan Soucek, R-Watauga, whose district includes Caldwell County, said in an interview that the change would be “a little more fair than the original policy.”

And he called an increase in pay for starting teachers “a good step in the right direction.”

“I don’t think that teachers are going to be parading in the streets after this announcement, but I think that a lot of teachers are going to see something that’s tangible in their pockets, and I think that all teachers are going to see a commitment that we have toward moving toward higher pay for all of them."

House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, said raising starting teachers’ salaries was “an important first step in correcting years of inequity.”

“I will not be completely satisfied until all North Carolina teachers get a substantial pay raise,” Starnes said.