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Teacher Pay Raises At Stake In NC Budget Fight

A 3-percent pay raise for CMS teachers is in question today. Governor Perdue vetoed a budget that would have made those raises possible saying lawmakers need to send even more funds to schools. Republican state lawmakers are at this hour attempting to override that veto. The action coincides with CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison's first day on the job. In this segment, WFAE's Julie Rose discusses the issues with WFAE's All Things Considered host, Mark Rumsey.

MARK: Julie, how closely is Superintendent Morrison watching the budget votes in Raleigh on his first day?

ROSE: When I caught up with him this afternoon at one of several school visits he's been making, he told me that he's been on the phone with local and state lawmakers in between those visits.

RUMSEY: Is he asking them to override the governor's veto?

ROSE: I tried to pin him down on that and he really wouldn't say. But he is very clear that the best thing for CMS would be either for lawmakers to compromise with Perdue on even more funding for schools or to override her veto. Otherwise, districts are stuck with the same state budget they got last year.

MORRISON: "The worst-case scenario is to go back to last year's budget, which would be a cut for us and after several years of cutting in the district, that would be really, really difficult. So we're just hoping for a quick resolution. Always better I think when it's done in a bipartisan spirit."

ROSE: Giving teachers raises is the district's priority, he says. But CMS last year's budget doesn't include enough to do that. This year Mecklenburg County Commissioners provided some funds specifically for raises - but only if CMS and the state come up with a match.

RUMSEY: Morrison says the district needs a quick resolution. What's the rush?

ROSE: First of all, we're already into the second day of the new fiscal year. If CMS can get clarity on this today - either through an override or a budget compromise - then tomorrow when county commissioners meet, they can release the money they locked away for teacher raises and CMS can move ahead with making that happen. School Board Member Eric Davis says the longer this drags on the harder it is for teachers making career moves for the next year.

DAVIS: "Right now there's so much uncertainty we can't commit to our employees or start setting the right environment for our students, so we need this behind us as quickly as possible."

ROSE: I also spoke today with Bill Anderson, the director of the advocacy group "MeckEd" and he says this situation really just underscores how dysfunctional the funding system is in North Carolina to have the state do its budgeting so late in the year.

RUMSEY: All right, thanks Julie. We'll be watching the veto override votes in Raleigh.