Under the Dome

NCAE applauds Wake County for school employee pay raises

The Wake County school system’s plan to give raises this year to all 18,000 school employees is drawing praise from the state’s teacher association as the group is also using the news as a way to lob more complaints at state lawmakers.

The Wake County school board revised its 2015-16 operating budget Tuesday to implement $16 million 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 locally-funded pay raises are the result of the Wake County Board of Commissioners providing a record $44.6 million increase in school funding this year. Wake is hoping to raise its teacher pay to the national average by 2020.

“NCAE applauds Wake County’s elected officials for taking a critical step to invest in public education by approving salary increases for all teachers and other school employees in a push for that county to reach the national average for teacher pay,” Rodney Ellis, president of the N.C. Association of Educators said in a statement Wednesday.

“Just down the block on Jones Street, some in the General Assembly have other priorities. Instead of using a nearly $450 million surplus budget to invest in the resources our students need to succeed, state lawmakers used a near record long session to choose cutting taxes for corporations, funneling more money into private school vouchers, and denying more than 60,000 educators a permanent pay raise.

“The General Assembly’s failure to make a dent in North Carolina’s national rankings of 46th in per-pupil spending and 42nd in average teacher pay leaves local governments to pick up the pieces. Thankfully, the Wake County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education understand the value of public education on their communities and economy.”

It was a theme echoed by Wake school board members on Tuesday as they criticized the General Assembly for not doing enough to raise pay.

“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 before the budget vote.

The General Assembly has raised teacher pay, mostly for beginning teachers, over the past two years. But that’s not enough for school board members and NCAE.

This year’s state budget raises the base salary for beginning teachers to $35,000, funds experienced-based step pay increases for educators and gives teachers and other full-time school employees a one-time $750 bonus.

Wake school officials noted that if not for the locally funded increases that support staff and some teachers wouldn’t have gotten salary increases this year. The step increases provide pay bumps every five years instead of an annual basis.