North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper criticized Republican state legislators for proposing a budget that will not fund teacher salaries and school security at the levels he feels are needed. Cooper addressed the budget during a visit to a Huntersville school Thursday.
Cooper talked to students in several classes at J.M. Alexander Middle School about the important role teachers play in their lives and the need to pay them more.
“We have to raise teacher pay to at least the national average,” Cooper said. “We’re 37th in the country right now. That is unacceptable.”
In his proposed budget, Cooper said he asked legislators to give all teachers at least a five percent raise, with some getting as much as a 14 percent raise. So far, the Republican-led legislature has mentioned bonuses for teachers in targeted positions, but no across-the-board raise beyond the average 6 percent state increase already scheduled for next year. Not all teachers will see that pay bump, especially veteran teachers.
“It’s just not enough," Cooper said. "We can do so much more in our state and [the legislature has] come up woefully short with their proposal. They’ve indicated no willingness to do any more than what they put in last year’s budget."
Cooper is also asking for $130 million for public safety upgrades in schools, additional mental health professionals to serve students and more school police to prevent violent incidents on campuses. He said Republicans have offered only $28 million.
J.M. Alexander teacher Leslie Cosentine was in Raleigh last week with nearly 20 thousand other teachers, who marched and lobbied legislators for increased pay, more classroom resources and safer schools. Cosentine said she and many of her colleagues are disappointed in what they are hearing from General Assembly members.
“There’s a lot of people feeling very angry,” Cosentine said. “For me, I am feeling like this is generally the legislature’s lack of respect for the teaching profession and for public education in particular. I am hopeful when I hear Gov. Cooper speak. I’m going to keep on pushing. “
Governor Cooper said the resources he and teachers are asking for can be partly paid for by doing away with $110 million in proposed tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. But he said he's not optimistic that General Assembly leaders will negotiate with him and other Democrats on the tax breaks or education funding.