More Pay or Tenure? NC Plan Would Make Teachers Choose

Higher pay or guaranteed tenure? That’s the choice public school teachers in North Carolina will be forced to make if a bill in the state Senate passes. 

An article written by J. Andrew Curliss, Lynn Bonner and Ann Doss Helms of the Charlotte News-Observer reveals the draft of an education bill written by Senate Republicans would add as much as $468 million to teacher pay for next year, an average raise of 11% to salaries.

The caveat of that potential pay raise is that teachers must give up their tenure to get it – meaning they will no longer have job security past what is already guaranteed by standard federal and state law.

Under the bill’s terminology, teachers who reject the new pay structure would continue on the current plan, which stagnates at a certain point in an educator’s career, but would keep the tenure, meaning they could not be fired for anything outside the realm of “just cause”.

A recent poll showed North Carolina 47th out of the 50 states in average teacher salaries. The raise would increase the average teacher’s salary by some $5,200 to $51,198, which would take the state to 27th in average salary.

The plan is vastly different from one proposed by Gov. Pat McCrory earlier this year.

Gov. Pat McCrory cut 2% from the [University of North Carolina] system to help balance his budget and its more modest plan for teacher raises. McCrory proposed spending about one-fourth the amount on teacher raises compared with the Senate plan.

Where exactly the money for the Senate plan would come from has yet to be revealed. However, Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) said two weeks ago that the money would not come via tax increases. 
Berger formally announced the new plan in a press conference on Wednesday. The plan has 21 steps and will give the largest raises to teachers with between 4-24 years of experience, according to an article by the News-Observer’s Bruce Henderson.
“This is a significant step in addressing what has been a continuing problem in North Carolina and will help propel North Carolina forward,” Berger said.  “For the first time in state history, teachers could make more than administrators.”
Not everyone is happy about the announcement. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Associate of Educators representative Erlene Lyde said the plan is geared to entice teachers to give up job protection in favor of bigger salaries at the get-go.
Other highlights of the unveiled plan include:
  • Continue to pay teachers a 10% bonus for having a master’s degree (or having started work on one) and an additional 12% for holding national board certification.
  • Repeal a previous law that would eliminate tenure in 2018. Tenure has been a hot-button topic in the education sector and the legislature for half a decade, and two judges have already ruled against the previously-passed legislation as being unconstitutional.