State Politics

McCrory budget covers basics, keeps promise on teacher pay

Teacher Emily Levinson, right, has student Jacobi Walters stand on his chair to be recognized after he got high marks on a computer quiz in her third-grade class at A.B. Combs Elementary School in Raleigh. Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget plan keeps a pledge he made to increase teacher pay, including raising the minimum teacher salary to $35,000 a year.
Teacher Emily Levinson, right, has student Jacobi Walters stand on his chair to be recognized after he got high marks on a computer quiz in her third-grade class at A.B. Combs Elementary School in Raleigh. Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget plan keeps a pledge he made to increase teacher pay, including raising the minimum teacher salary to $35,000 a year. cseward@newsobserver.com

Much of the money in the governor’s proposed budget for grade schools would cover basic and expected increases in teacher pay and expected increases in the numbers of students in classrooms.

Gov. Pat McCrory would increase K-12 spending by $291 million next year as part of his budget plan.

State Budget Director Lee Roberts emphasized how much is going for teacher raises, which would bring the minimum teacher salary to $35,000 a year, provide step increases according to the new salary schedule, and give $1,000 bonuses to the most experienced teachers.

“The largest discretionary priority in this budget is keeping the promise that was made in the last session to bring all teachers to a starting salary of $35,000 a year,” Roberts said. “In the governor’s first term, he will have spent over $1 billion in new money in teacher pay. If you come away with one statistic from this presentation, that’s the one to remember.”

In all, McCrory would spend about $8.4 billion for schools – which is, by far, the largest share of spending on any area in state government.

McCrory’s plan represents an increase of about 3 percent over this year’s $8.2 billion working budget for public education.

The governor’s plan includes more than $100 million to pay for the 17,333 additional students expected to enroll in public schools next year.

The plan also proposes to get rid of a textbook fund and roll it into a separate part of the budget for instructional supplies and equipment. McCrory added $35 million for those materials, with the intent that school districts would be allowed to use the money as they see fit.

It would be a 53 percent increase in that area of spending. This year, the state had a total of about $74 million for textbooks and instructional supplies.

Still, the North Carolina Association of Educators said McCrory’s budget doesn’t do enough to get textbooks and other materials to classrooms.

NCAE said the state had $188 million – about 70 percent more than McCrory now proposes – to cover those same classroom costs in 2008.

In a statement, NCAE President Rodney Ellis criticized the budget for not addressing ways to help students in low-wealth schools. Schools with high concentrations of low-income students disproportionally recieved Fs under the state’s new grading system.

“All of our students, regardless of ZIP code, deserve the tools and time to learn,” Ellis said.

KEY STAT: $35 million, the amount in new money earmarked for supplies and equipment.

KEEPING A PROMISE: Much of McCrory’s increase in education spending is to keep a pledge he and legislative leaders committed last year to increasing early teacher pay.

HOW LIKELY? Republican lawmakers who are in charge of state government have also pledged to raise teacher pay. Beyond the raises, McCrory’s education budget doesn’t have many extras in it.

Bonner: 919-829-4821;

Twitter: @Lynn_Bonner

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