McCrory previews education proposals, praises Jim Hunt

kreilly@newsobserver.comJanuary 14, 2014 

Gov. Pat McCrory will emphasize meeting international education standards, building a qualified labor force and rewarding teachers with increased pay when he announces his proposals for education legislation in the coming weeks.

McCrory previewed his legislative agenda in a speech at the Hunt Institute’s Holshouser Legislators Retreat on Monday night, though he did not provide specific policy plans.

McCrory repeatedly emphasized the importance of bipartisanship in approaching the issue of education, saying “this is not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue,” and praised former Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt as a valued adviser.

“Jim Hunt is a hero of mine, he’s a mentor of mine, and the state has been so fortunate to have him in leadership in so many different ways,” he said. “From the day I came in office and was sworn in and then sworn at at times, he’s been a great adviser to me.”

McCrory and the GOP-led legislature have been criticized by Democrats, educators and others for measures that were seen as devaluing teachers such as phasing out tenure and ending pay increases for earning advanced degrees. But in recent months, McCrory has been talking about increasing teacher pay. He had raises for both teachers and state workers in his first budget, but the expenditures did not make it into the legislature’s budget.

Some Democratic legislators in attendance were not surprised by the bipartisan tone of the governor’s speech.

“The Hunt-Holshouser retreat is always very bipartisan,” said Rep. Darren Jackson, a Democrat from Raleigh. “I think everybody can get behind the idea of increasing teacher pay, but when you get to where the funds are going to come from, whether you’re raising pay for all teachers or some teachers, I think that’s where some of the partisan issues arrive.”

McCrory said he and his education Cabinet will soon present specific proposals to the state legislature.

“He made us feel that he’s about to announce some type of teacher raise,” said Rep. Duane Hall, a Democrat from Raleigh. “His recommendations will be important. It will put through a small teacher raise. I would like to see it be more than the 1 to 1.5 percent increase they’re likely to propose.”

In his speech, McCrory enumerated the State Board of Education goals of increasing the graduation rate, graduating students who are career-ready and college-ready, improving student performance on tests and ensuring that teachers are productive and well-prepared.

But Hall said he is skeptical that basing teacher pay on student test results will be an effective policy.

“Everyone seems to think that maybe there’s a way to do it, but no one’s really come up with the numbers that there’s a good way to do it,” he said.

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