News: CJ Exclusives

2017 state budget: Education/teacher pay raises

House Education Committee Chair Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, outlines budget priorities for education during a June 1, 2017 press conference. (CJ Photo by Kari Travis)
House Education Committee Chair Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, outlines budget priorities for education during a June 1, 2017 press conference. (CJ Photo by Kari Travis)

Politically charged debates over teacher pay are nothing new. This year is no exception, given that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper holds power in the executive branch, while a Republican supermajority governs the General Assembly.

Cooper wants to spend more, the legislature wants to spend less. For now, the numbers look like this.

  • The House would raise teacher salaries by 3.3 percent during year one, and 6.2 percent year two, a 9.5 percent increase over the biennium. That budget would raise salaries by $181 million in the first year, and $456 million in the second year.
  • The Senate would raise teacher salaries by 3.7 percent during year one, and 5.8 percent year two, also 9.5 percent overall. That increase would allocate an additional $131.7 million in the first year, and $373 million in the second year.
  • Cooper’s budget would raise teacher salaries by 5 percent during year one, and 5 percent year two, a 10 percent increase. His total teacher pay package would spend $271 million in the first year, and $542 million in the second year.

Under the House plan, the highest average salary increases would go to mid-career educators.

Pay hikes at both ends of the career spectrum are small by comparison.   

New teachers would see a raise of less than 1 percent, and teachers with more than 25 years of experience would get a pay bump of just over half a percent.

Still, the plan would give bonuses of up to $5,000 to teachers with 27 or more years’ experience who commit to teaching through at least 2019.

House leaders hope the incentive will keep veteran educators in the classroom.

“We don’t want to see an employee retire early, roll their days in,” said Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes, during a Thursday news conference. “We want to keep those experienced teachers there, especially with the influx of new teachers coming in.”

“When you put higher salaries at the tail end of the scale, the teacher at that point has the ability to retire, and that would affect the retirement benefits. So you’re not getting more work years out of the teacher at that point, and we need that experience in the classroom, so we want them to stay. We don’t want to create an incentive for them to immediately walk out the door, because we need them to help our younger teachers.”