On the eve of Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget presentation, Attorney General Roy Cooper, presumed Democratic candidate for governor in 2016, called on McCrory and the legislature to raise teacher pay to the national average “within the next few years.”
McCrory’s budget will include a proposal to raise the minimum pay for teachers to $35,000 and a raise for all teachers that will average 2 percent. Legislative leaders have committed to raising the minimum salary. Leading lawmakers say they want broader pay increases, but have not committed McCrory’s plan.
“Education in North Carolina should be a priority and not an afterthought,” Cooper said in a statement. “For too long, pay for teachers has languished and North Carolina now ranks 46th in the nation in teacher pay. Reports show far too many good teachers leaving their profession because they are unable to make it on low pay no matter how much they love their jobs and their students.”
McCrory on Tuesday attended a conference on teacher effectiveness and innovations in teaching sponsored by his N.C. Business Committee for Education, Dell and Intel. He talked about the raises, a plan presented last week to develop a career pathway for teachers, and his proposal to increase the textbook budget to $46 million.
“The transition from textbooks to technology has not been as quick as we anticipated,” he said. He mused that students may one day be able to perform chemistry experiments on smartphones, freeing up money to pay for other courses that would have gone to expensive labs.
Jason Van Heukelum, deputy superintendent for Cabarrus County schools, appreciated the beefed up textbook budget. “We haven’t had healthy textbook funding for several years,” he said.
Steven Goldsmith, public affairs leader at Biogen Idec, thanked McCrory for his efforts on teacher pay.
But Sixto Cancel, a Virginia Commonwealth University student and Dell Youth Innovation Adviser, questioned the usefulness of plans to maximize teacher impact that are developed without students.
“Things like a virtual chemistry lab sound great, however, does that work?” Cancel said. “Does that really maximize learning?” Students, including young people disengaged from education, should be integral to developing ideas for innovations, he said.
“It’s surprising that we’re talking about North Carolina education, and yet we don’t have someone from North Carolina who’s a student here,” he said.