North Carolina House Bill 1031 has been proposed as a way to make it easier for teachers to pay back their student loans. It suggests that revenue from the state lottery windfall would be given to public school teachers as funds to use toward their education loans.
Teachers who qualify would receive up to $10,000. The bill is being sponsored by Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Orange), Rep. Ed Hanes (D-Forsyth), Rep. Bobbie Richardson (D-Franklin), and Rep.Bras Salmon (D-Harnett).
Lawmakers say the state has $38.5 million on hand thanks to the run of record-breaking jackpots in January, reports Emma Wright for WNCN-TV.
According to Billy Ball, reporting for The Progressive Pulse, the fund would be overseen by the State Education Assistance Authority and would be available for licensed, full-time, teachers employed in state public and charter schools.
Teachers could use the funds for up to four years and would be asked to sign a "statement of intent" to remain in the state as a teacher for a minimum of four years.
"Why can't we use these funds to help ease the burden on these public servants?," Rep. Hanes said. "Why can't we use it as an opportunity to unite our state behind what is good, what is right?"
However, Gov. Pat McCrory has allocated in his projected budget that the lottery money be used for purchasing school resources and books. Meyer countered that typically the general fund was used to pay for these items.
Rep. Meyer said the loan forgiveness policy is focused on young teachers who are likely to leave the teaching profession in North Carolina because of the state's lower teachers' salaries.
North Carolina's largest teachers' association celebrated National Teachers' Day last Tuesday by challenging GOP lawmakers to "restore respect" for the profession of teaching.
WRAL-TV's Laura Leslie writes that the changes that the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) is seeking include budget and policy matters. They want the restoration of longevity pay and extra pay for teachers with master's degrees. The union is also asking for changes in the manner the state grades schools on an A through F ranking.
They are requesting that the potential for career status rights for teachers who had not earned them before the state legislators eliminated them in 2013 be restored.
NCAE Pres. Rodney Ellis noted that North Carolina teachers have the highest rate of turnover in 15 years, and teacher training programs' enrollment has decreased by 30%. Ellis added:
"We are no longer a teacher destination state."
Teachers say they are not encouraging young students to enter the teaching profession. They say they feel battered and are regularly being asked to do more for less pay. Funding has dwindled to the point that teachers are footing the bill for classroom supplies and even tissues and toilet paper.
"North Carolina is 46th in per-pupil spending and has a textbook and educational resource fund that is still well below pre-recession levels. In addition, North Carolina ranks 42nd in average teacher pay," Ellis said. "If some of our basketball teams were ranked 42nd and 46th in the country, a state of emergency would be declared."
NCAE is asking the legislature to raise pay for teachers and the per-pupil funding to the national average and is also requesting that they keep these increases current.
Lawmakers say they have increased education spending every year, but the additions have only stayed level with the state's expanding number of students enrolled.
WTVD-TV's Heather Waliga writes that Bob Luebke of the conservative-leaning NC Civitas Institute said:
"On average (teachers) got a 7 percent pay raise last year which was the highest in the country. Now, there was a lot of variability in that, and I realize in the last few years the raises have been smaller than that, but I do believe it's a step in the right direction."