Wake Ed

Wake County teacher pay raises draw praise, criticism

First Grade Teacher Tierney McBride, 24, works with Tristen Mayo-Williams, one of her 18 students at York Elementary School in Raleigh, N.C. on Thursday, October 8, 2015. She and her 2 siblings all attended York and her mother, Jennifer McBride, not seen, was a substitute teacher as well. Returning to York as a professional is like coming home for her. McBride not only had her mother as a substitute teacher when she was a child, but her mother has filled-in for her as a substitute when she was away.
First Grade Teacher Tierney McBride, 24, works with Tristen Mayo-Williams, one of her 18 students at York Elementary School in Raleigh, N.C. on Thursday, October 8, 2015. She and her 2 siblings all attended York and her mother, Jennifer McBride, not seen, was a substitute teacher as well. Returning to York as a professional is like coming home for her. McBride not only had her mother as a substitute teacher when she was a child, but her mother has filled-in for her as a substitute when she was away. clowenst@newsobserver.com

The Wake County school system’s plan to raise teacher pay by $16 million this year to move salaries closer to the national average is drawing widely differing reactions along the political spectrum.

Left-learning groups are praising the pay raises as rewarding Wake’s teachers and helping to keep the district competitive. But conservative groups say the pay raises are flawed because they’re based on years of teaching experience instead of on job performance.

On Oct. 6, the Wake school board finalized the budget to include pay raises for all 18,000 school employees, including the $16 million for teachers. On Tuesday, the board will adopt a new teacher pay scale that includes raises of $875 to $3,202 this school year for classroom teachers.

The teacher raises were made possible by a record $44.6 million increase in funding from the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

On Thursday, WakeUP Wake County posted that the school board and commissioners are both showing leadership by ensuring that school employees are getting raises “for the incredible work that they do every day.”

“As Wake County public schools continue to grow by thousands of students every year, it’s important that we continue to fund school operations, and pay our teachers well,” WakeUP Wake wrote. “Let’s keep up the good work!”

On Friday, Ferrel Guillory of EdNC wrote that Wake’s teacher pay raises show what urban counties are willing to do to hire teachers so the state needs to do more to help less-affluent areas fill the compensation gap. Guillory also wrote that the lack of a state pay raise for most teachers this year taken together with Wake’s actions suggests “a further erosion of that long-standing state-local arrangement in the financing of public education.”

“Wake County has acted as a grown-up in responding to its need to remain competitive in the teacher job market,” Guillory writes. “Whether the state will remain competitive is a critical question up for debate in the legislature and in the gubernatorial election of 2016.”

In contrast, Bob Luebke of the Civitas Institute wrote Wednesday that Wake’s pay plan is a “pay problem” as tying the raises to experience “does little but perpetuate the current problems regarding teacher pay.” He writes that paying teachers based on experience instead of on job performance “denies the reality that teachers are different.”

“WCPSS teachers deserve a salary structure that better reflects their actual performance.” Luebke writes. “The WCPSS pay plan makes sure that doesn’t happen. It pays teachers – and other staff – largely according to years of experience and professional qualifications.

“Truth be told, neither of these factors is tied to student achievement, which the last time I checked was the end goal of teaching.”

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