News: CJ Exclusives

Senate Plan Would Hike Average Teacher Salary To Nearly $55,000

Proposal would raise teacher pay to 24th in nation while letting teachers hit top of pay scale after 15 years of service

Senate leader Phil Berger at a May 24 press conference announced a plan to raise teacher salaries while shortening the amount of time teachers must work in order to reach the top of their earnings potential. (CJ photo by Kari Travis)
Senate leader Phil Berger at a May 24 press conference announced a plan to raise teacher salaries while shortening the amount of time teachers must work in order to reach the top of their earnings potential. (CJ photo by Kari Travis)

A Senate plan to modify North Carolina’s current teacher pay system would see K-12 educators reach the top of their earnings potential over a 15-year period, rather than the 33-year timeframe that existed in the 2013-14 school year, Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said at a Wednesday press conference.

Berger unveiled a plan that would increase average teacher pay to nearly $55,000 over the next two years, a $10,000 increase since 2013-14. The plan will be part of the Senate’s budget proposal that will be introduced next week, he said, and should fall within the $22.2 billion General Fund spending limits that Senate and House leaders agreed to in April before the short legislative session opened.

“We think that this is the right plan, particularly for North Carolina at this time,” Berger said. “We think that this is fully within the capacity of the state of North Carolina in terms of feasibility, and we think it sets the right priorities.”

The increase would see $538 million added to base teacher pay over the next two years, and if implemented, Berger said, would raise North Carolina 23 spots nationally from the 2013-14 school year to become 24th best in teacher compensation, based on data from the National Education Association.

Average teacher pay in North Carolina, which is now $44,990, would climb in increments over the next two years, reaching $51,047 during 2016-17, and $54,224 during 2017-18. These pay increases are not merit-based, but if the General Assembly is able to reform what Berger calls the “archaic” system that has controlled teacher pay for decades, merit-based compensation plans might become a possibility, he said.

The Senate’s proposal for teacher pay increases is slightly higher than the one passed last week by the House, which called for a 4.1 percent increase to boost average salaries to just under $50,000 over the next two years.

The House also proposed that state employees receive an average 2 percent pay raise and $500 bonus and retirees receive a 1.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment.

Under Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget plan, teachers would receive a 5 percent pay boost with the goal of raising average salaries to $50,000 over one year. Teachers also would — along with all other state employees — receive a one-time bonus of 3.5 percent.

The Senate’s plan does not include bonuses, and Berger did not specify how the Senate would rearrange the House-passed budget plan to fund the proposed raises, referencing instead the state’s recent unexpected revenues gains as proof that growing tax collections will make his plan viable.

“Obviously, we will deal with any modifications suggested, and we’ll work within the budget and [take] care of it by the end of June,” Berger said. “But we are committed to do everything we can to see this come about.”