News: Quick Takes

Two education-related mini-budgets move through Senate

The N.C. Legislative Building in Raleigh. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)
The N.C. Legislative Building in Raleigh. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)

Senate Republicans introduced Wednesday, Oct. 23, a pair of mini-budget bills that would raise pay for K-12 educators and university employees.

The move continues the GOP’s strategy of introducing mini-budgets to get around Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget veto. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said the Senate will pass these piecemeal spending plans until Oct. 31, when the Senate will adjourn for the year. House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, hasn’t said when the House will adjourn. But he’s hinted it’ll be soon after the Senate leaves.

A proposed committee substitute to House Bill 377 would provide $16.3 million in both years of the biennium to increase salaries for principals. Principals would also see merit-based bonuses and recruitment supplements. The PCS passed the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Teachers and instructional support personnel only receive annual step increases held up by the budget stalemate. Non-certified school staff don’t receive any pay raises in the bill. Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said there will likely be a bill to address pay raises for custodians and cafeteria workers in the future. 

The committee also approved a PCS to House Bill 231 that would raise pay for employees of the University of North Carolina system and the N.C. Community College system.

For UNC salary increases, the mini-budget appropriates $15 million in the first year and $30 million the second year. A little more than $12 million would be appropriated in the first year for N.C. Community College salaries, and $24.8 million in the second year. The PCS to H.B. 231 includes $17 million over two years for UNC faculty retention. 

Both measures are on the Senate’s Thursday calendar for a floor vote.

Pay raises for teachers is a point of contention between Republicans in the General Assembly and Cooper, a Democrat. 

The $24 billion budget passed earlier this year included an average 3.8% raise for teachers over two years. Cooper vetoed the budget plan June 28, primarily because it didn’t include money to expand Medicaid. But Cooper also wanted a higher raise for teachers. In his counter proposal, the governor called for an average teacher raise of 8.5% over two years. 

The General Assembly has advanced several mini-budgets covering items with bipartisan support. Teacher pay raises have proven elusive because of the partisan disagreements over the amount.

“Governor Cooper froze teacher pay as part of his Medicaid-or-nothing budget ultimatum strategy,” Sen. Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga, said in a news release. “As conversations continue about teacher raises, we’re passing legislation to unfreeze teacher salaries so they can finally get the increases they were promised last year.”

Clarification: This story was corrected after publication. The $16.3 million in H.B. 377 only funded pay raises for principals. We regret the error.