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CMS Teachers Will Get Retroactive Raises Averaging 3%

Teachers at Oaklawn Language Academy near uptown Charlotte protest before school Wednesday morning
Michael Falero
Faculty at Oaklawn Language Academy picketed Wednesday for better school funding from the state.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' 9,000 teachers will get raises averaging 3%, based on a Friday school board vote that taps state money for experience-based hikes and county money to boost the local supplement.

Individual raises will vary from 1% to 8% based on years of experience, Chief Financial Officer Sheila Shirley told the board. 

The raises will be retroactive to July 1, Shirley said -- but teachers hoping for a big check in time for holiday shopping are likely to be disappointed. The next November paycheck won't reflect the raises, and Shirley said it could be late January before back-pay is calculated and distributed.

CMS Chief Financial Officer Sheila Shirley

Principals will get raises averaging 6.8% thanks to new pay scales approved by state lawmakers, Shirley said. Non-certified staff, such as bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers, will get hikes averaging 3%, with the lowest hourly wage now at $13.22.

CMS is one of the Charlotte region's largest employers with more than 19,000 employees. About half of them are on the teacher pay scale, which includes counselors and other certified staff.

The school board approved a partial budget almost five months into the fiscal year because the Republican-led General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper remain deadlocked over a state budget. Friday's vote was based on several "mini-budgets" that have been approved by legislators and signed by the governor. Because they haven't come to agreement on teacher pay, the state is using the 2018-19 pay scale for now.

Under that scale, teachers with one to 15 years' experience qualify for a "step" raise of $1,000, based on adding another year. With 15 to 24 years' experience, state pay remains at $50,000 a year, with a jump to $52,000 at 25 years.

Cooper signed a bill freeing money for the experience-based state teacher raises late last week.

The state step raises would bump up CMS teachers an average of 1.3%, Shirley said. But Mecklenburg County commissioners also gave CMS an additional $8 million to increase the local supplement "with the intent of being in competition with the highest in the state," Shirley said.

Also Friday, the board approved hiring 72 more positions to support students' social and emotional health -- jobs that include counselors, social workers and psychologists. CMS currently has 550 people in those roles.

Shirley said the board will have to wait until 2020 to vote on a final budget for the year. That's when lawmakers will return and could negotiate a budget that adds more money to the state's teacher pay scale. The General Assembly and the governor both want to do that but are split over the amount.

Shirley, who has worked on the CMS budget for 19 years, said this is the longest state delay she's ever seen. The delay affects public schools across the state.