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Teachers Would Swap Pay Raise For Tenure Under Senate Plan

North Carolina teachers would receive an average $5,800 raise next year under the Senate’s plan to boost teacher pay. But there’s a trade-off. Teachers must give up tenure to get the raise and to help fund the raises the number of teaching assistants would be cut in half.

The proposal amounts to an average pay hike of 11 percent. Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger promoted it as the largest teacher raise in state history.

“It will boost North Carolina from currently 47th in overall teacher pay to the middle of current rankings. The estimate we have is somewhere around 27 and, in the region, from ninth to third,” said Berger.

But there’s a big catch. To get the raise, teachers must give up tenure. Otherwise, they get nothing, except for the same pay schedule that’s been frozen for years.

Still, Rodney Ellis of the North Carolina Association of Educators recommends teachers reject the offer.

“Teachers are giving up their due process rights. That’s a huge loss. It opens teachers up to arbitrary and capricious dismissal and that’s not a fair exchange in my opinion,” says Ellis.

Senate leaders want to get rid of tenure because they say that will make it easier to fire ineffective teachers. 

The new pay scale would set starting base salaries at $33,000 and reach $50,000 for teachers with twenty years of experience. Under the current system, salaries start at $30,800 for beginning teachers. It takes 33 years to receive $50,000.

“I’m encouraged the plan clearly includes significantly upgraded salaries,” says Mooresville Graded Schools Superintendent Mark Edwards.

But he worries about the details and notes that Senate leaders crafted the plan without much input from educators.

“It just makes sense to use the expertise of individuals who have spent their lives in that field to carry it out and to make sure the implementation of it is successful,” says Edwards. “I think if there’s a lack of that then typically you’ll see problems popping up.” 

The Senate’s plan differs significantly from Governor McCrory’s proposal to boost teacher pay. His plan includes more modest pay raises for all teachers. The governor’s spokesman says McCrory has a “different and broader” approach and points out the administration worked with education and business leaders in developing the plan.

The Senate’s plan would cost $468 million.  Senate leaders propose cutting the money for teaching assistants in half to help pay for that.  The state has made deep cuts to teaching assistants in past years. 

The Senate will begin discussing the budget this morning.  Berger expects to turn it over to the House by the end of the week.