Politics & Government

Senate Republicans propose big teacher pay hike

Senate Republicans on Wednesday proposed a steep increase in teacher pay that would bring the average teacher salary to about $54,000 a year in two years, but offered few details on how they would fund it.

Senate leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, said the proposal would add $538 million to base pay over the next two years and make North Carolina the regional leader in teacher pay. The announcement comes in advance of the presentation of the Senate’s complete proposed budget. Berger did not say how the chamber proposes to pay for the raises, other than that the money would come from recurring funds.

“If everything else remains stagnant, teachers will receive almost $200,000 in additional pay over the course of their career under this plan,” Berger said.

The increases are bigger than those Gov. Pat McCrory proposed and the state House passed last week. Berger said raises for other state employees would be disclosed in the full budget to be released next week.

Berger said teachers would reach the top of the pay scale after 15 years. No salary schedule was provided. Berger referred to a website run by the Senate Republican caucus’s political committee that requires users to enter their email addresses. That site did not include the traditional salary chart.

“Once you see the full budget, you’ll be able to see the details,” he said.

The early announcement of teacher raises is a repeat of the strategy Senate Republicans used in 2014, when they pushed for 11 percent increases.

Their complete budget proposal, revealed later, would have eliminated thousands of teacher-assistant jobs and cut thousands of people who were “medically needy” from Medicaid.

McCrory and House Republicans opposed that plan. The final budget that year spared teacher assistants and had a 7 percent average teacher raise, but some veteran teachers received increases of fraction of a percent, those at the top of the scale received one-time bonuses, and teachers lost their separate longevity paychecks.

Berger said Wednesday that the Senate proposal would not cut teacher assistant funding. “I don’t see any significant modifications as far as TAs,” he said.

Rodney Ellis, president of the N.C. Association of Educators, said Republicans are trying to “play catch up” in an election year.

“Clearly the devil is going to be in the details on this proposal, and we haven’t seen them,” he said in a statement.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner