Anyone who turned on the news this past Wednesday saw thousands of North Carolina teachers visiting Raleigh to make their voices heard.
On the surface, it was a similar scene to what has played out in other states across the country over the past few months. From West Virginia, to Oklahoma, to Arizona, teachers have rallied in support of increased funding for public education.
However, unlike some other states, North Carolina has a great story to tell when it comes to supporting teachers and funding education.
One of the best investments that we can make is preparing our children for the future and the people who often have the most significant impact on that future is their teachers. We want teachers to know that we hear you and we have made a commitment to supporting you and our children.
When my Republican colleagues took over control of the legislature from past irresponsible state leaders in 2011, they inherited a broken system. Decades of failed tax-and-spend policies had led to a record $2.5 billion budget deficit and we faced a tremendous decline in state funding for public education.
Those past leaders failed to prepare our state for tough times so when the recession hit, teachers were among those that suffered the most. Thousands of state-funded teaching positions were cut, salaries were frozen and teachers were furloughed. Past leaders supplanted millions of dollars in state funding for public education with one-time federal stimulus dollars and slashed textbook spending to just $2.5 million in 2010-11.
Republicans have worked tirelessly to put North Carolina back on solid financial footing by closing the budget deficit, paying down the debt to the federal government and increasing funding for public education every year we have held the majority. We are on track to spend over $2 billion more on education in 2018-19 than was spent in 2010-2011.
In 2014, Senate Republicans made the decision to reform the teacher pay scale, dramatically increasing teacher pay and we have continued to do so every year since then. Teacher pay has risen for the past four years and we have already pledged that this will be the fifth consecutive year that teachers see their salaries rise. North Carolina’s teacher salaries are among the fastest rising in the country.
The average teacher salary for the 2018-2019 school year will be $53,600, which is an average $8,600 or 19 percent pay raise compared with 2013-2014. Under the new compressed salary schedule, teachers reach top pay earlier in their career, which over a 30-year career will result in them earning $233,000 more than they would have under the old salary schedule in base pay alone. That’s not even mentioning the various performance-based bonuses that we have funded to reward outstanding teachers who help students succeed in the classroom.
Education is something that is very important to me, which is why, during last year’s legislative session, I personally sponsored Senate Bill 667, which restored master’s degree and doctoral degree salary supplements for teachers that met certain qualifications, in addition to several other bills related to education.
My wife is a career educator and my sister is a second-grade teacher, so I know firsthand how difficult the life of a teacher can be. Long hours in and out of the classroom can often leave you feeling overworked and underappreciated.
I agree that we still need to do more, especially for veteran teachers, but we have come a long way from where we were just five years ago. We will continue to emphasize the importance of education funding so that North Carolina can encourage the best and brightest in the next generation of teachers to make a commitment to our state.
Danny Britt, a Republican from Lumberton, represents the 13th District in the N.C. House, which includes all of Robeson and Columbus counties.