North Carolina public school teachers have endured enough from the General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory to develop a strong sense of skepticism about Republican plans to help them.
That skepticism is certainly merited when it comes to McCrory’s election-year plan to give teachers a pay boost. This week the governor proposed a $5,000 bonus for teachers with 25 years or more of experience, lesser bonuses for others, and a 5 percent average raise.
McCrory’s proposal has some appealing aspects and any increase in base pay is welcome, but at its heart his proposal is an attempt to get past November without having teachers in a full uproar.
Teachers will take the salary increase estimated to cost $250 million. But they don’t really want one-time bonuses estimated to cost $165 million. What they want are fair, predictable state salaries that increase with their experience and aren’t capped at $50,000. What McCrory proposes is giving cash to teachers in an election year when tax revenues are strong. When circumstances are otherwise, teachers will go without.
Mark Jewell, vice president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, noted that lack of structured support in his response to the governor’s proposal. He said to WRAL, “Once again, there is no long-range plan to elevate public school educators to the head of the class, only election-year proposals that do little to make up for years of disrespecting the education profession and dismantling our public schools.”
Jewell also noted that the governor did not mention increases in salaries for education support personnel who, like teachers, have been shortchanged by the General Assembly’s frugal spending on public education in recent years.
Of course, like many of the governor’s proposals, his teacher pay plan is likely to be coolly received in the GOP-run General Assembly. The Republicans on Jones Street, after all, are not fans of public school teachers or public schools in general.
What teachers are likely to get this election year is a small percentage increase in pay that keeps up with inflation but does not lift their pay from where it is near the bottom of the national rankings. It will be a far cry from N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson’s call for a 10 percent raise for all teachers.
Public school teachers do serious work. The governor and legislature should get serious about paying for it.