Education

Wake County school budget to fund teacher pay raises

Students Kopal Gupta, left, Laurel Thomas, left center, and Karlyn Voltz, right, work on a problem as teacher Scott Maxwell, right center looks on in his Math III Honors STEM class at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2015.
Students Kopal Gupta, left, Laurel Thomas, left center, and Karlyn Voltz, right, work on a problem as teacher Scott Maxwell, right center looks on in his Math III Honors STEM class at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2015. cseward@newsobserver.com

Wake County took the first step Tuesday in the expensive process of moving the school system’s teacher pay toward the national average.

The Wake County school board revised its 2015-16 operating budget Tuesday to fund pay raises for all 18,000 school employees. The budget includes $16 mllion in raises for teachers, $1.8 million to raise pay for teachers who do extra duties and $6 million to give a 3-percent pay raise to support staff, which includes positions such as bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and teacher assistants.

The school board adopted a budget in May that requested $48.3 million more from the Wake County Board of Commissioners, with $16 million covering the first installment of a five-year plan to raise teacher pay to the national average by 2020. Superintendent Jim Merrill has said it would cost $80 million to raise Wake’s average teacher salary of $49,597 to the national average of more than $56,000.

Commissioners responded in June by increasing school funding by a record $44.6 million. David Neter, the school system’s chief business officer, said the increase was so significant that the district was able to make up the $3.7 million gap to fully fund the budget.

“I’d like to thank our county commissioners for providing us the resources to do what our state leaders chose not to do, and that is to take some very definitive steps toward trying to pay our teachers and school staff the amount of money that they deserve,” school board Vice Chairman Tom Benton said.

But the implementation of the teacher raises, retroactive to July 1, was put on hold until the state budget was adopted Sept. 18. The state budget raises the base salary for beginning teachers to $35,000, funds experienced-based step pay increases for educators and gives teachers a one-time $750 bonus.

The salary schedule presented Tuesday would ensure all 10,000 Wake teachers get raises this year. The raise for classroom teachers this year ranges from $875 to $3,202 depending on years of experience. The amount Wake would supplement the base pay provided by the state could reach 24.5 percent for some veteran teachers.

School administrators said that the pay plan was designed to help cover hard-to-fill positions and to cope with the way the state no longer funds teacher raises each year.

“We’re now more competitive because our salaries outpace everyone else around us,” said Doug Thilman, the school system’s assistant superintendent for human resources.

The board won’t adopt the new teacher salary schedule until Oct. 20. But the board adopted Tuesday a new “extra-duty” salary schedule covering positions such as coaches, department chairs and club advisers. It’s the first change for many positions since 1987.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

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