North Carolina teachers are going to get a raise — and it won’t be token, most likely ranging from 4 percent to 10 percent.
And teachers, if they have to surrender tenure for the extra dollars, will only do so voluntarily. The most likely cost to teachers in exchange for more money would be the loss of some teacher assistants.
All three budgets being considered by the state — Gov. Pat McCrory’s, the House’s and the Senate’s — include significant pay raises for teachers, but it remains to be seen which of the plans will survive following budget negotiations. It’s most likely to be a hybrid.
The irony is that it has been left to Republicans to significantly raise teacher pay, which had fallen so far that North Carolina embarrassingly ranked among the worst in the country for paying its teachers. The pay raise will be the first for North Carolina teachers since 2008.
The plunge in pay mostly happened under the watch of Democrats, but it has been Republicans who have been caricatured as being hostile toward education. Perhaps the critics should have raised their voices before Republicans controlled the Governor’s Mansion and both chambers of the General Assembly.
There are problems with all three plans, primarily where the money will come from.
The Senate version, which offers the largest pay hike at more than 10 percent, comes with the condition that teachers relinquish tenure and also would eliminate as many as 7,400 teachers assistants. McCrory’s budget raises salaries by 3.8 percent and provides a minimum of $35,000 a year for starting teachers, but shifts other costs to local districts that could be disabling for a county as poor as Robeson.
Educators seem to favor the House version, which provides a 5 percent raise without any cuts. On Tuesday night, Johnny Hunt, superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County, said it was the best of the three options.
The problem with the House plan is that it depends on the North Carolina Education Lottery for the revenue to pay for the raises. The plan is to increase advertising for the lottery which will result in more people playing the lottery and more dollars to better pay teachers.
The problem with this approach is that every study shows that the lottery is essentially a regressive tax because poor people are most likely to play it. That means that poor counties, such as Robeson, would carry a disproportionate burden in the effort to pay our teachers better.
It’s a cynical approach and one we hope flops during negotiations. There should be a better way to give teachers a raise they deserve than asking our state’s must vulnerable to pick up the tab.