NC Teachers Say Goodbye to Pay Raises, Hello to “Stipends”

>>9345399431_713c52c35a_bBY JENNIFER FERRIS     After passing a budget that sent busloads of teachers rushing to the state capitol to protest, Governor McCrory recently attempted to offer up a concession to our state’s educators. Citing a need to focus on outcomes rather than on tests and rankings, the Governor announced on August 1st the creation of a $30 million fund designed to reward exemplary teaching.

This so-called Education Innovation Fund will give a one-time $10,000 stipend to teachers who have been chosen by their peers as having particularly successful outcomes. “Productive teachers whose students achieve higher academic outcomes are paid the very same as teachers who do just enough to possibly get by,” >>McCrory told attendees of the NC Conference on Education in Chapel Hill. “Teachers are not a class, but professionals who should be rewarded based on their individual value to their students and their school.”

The idea of teachers receiving merit-based pay has been pervasive in McCrory’s budget planning during the recent legislative session. The >>2013-2014 fiscal budget that the Governor recently signed into law removes a pay increase for teachers who earn master’s degrees– a move which angered teachers and administrators from the Appalachians to the Outer Banks.

Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, >>calls this shift away from rewarding teachers for their loyalty “divisive.” He elaborates: “I would encourage the governor to focus on lifting every educator and student up in North Carolina, and not divide us and pit one professional against the other. It takes an entire school community working together to provide quality education and we all deserve to be fairly compensated.”

The Innovation Plan, which will receive funding from federal Race to the Top grants, will only be made available to the top 1% of North Carolina teachers. An >>editorial from the Charlotte Observer points out that this means a teacher could be the second-best in his or her school, yet would never see a bonus.

North Carolina already has among the lowest teacher salaries in the country—>>a national study ranks the Tarheel State 46th in overall teacher pay. Does it really make sense to create a system where more teachers earn even less money? McCrory lauds the new state budget for its tax changes which will increase all teachers’ income by 1% by decreasing their taxes. Unfortunately, >>this tax decrease only applies to those making more than $250,000 a year— a salary not a single public school teacher in North Carolina currently earns.

In fact, >>one out of nine NC teachers earns only $31,000 per year, and the average teacher salary statewide is $45,000 per year– nearly $10,000 less than the national average. Under the new state budget, starting in 2014 the top 25% of teachers will receive a $500 raise each year—which amounts to $20 more per paycheck– for the next four years. This incremental increase will bring teachers up to a new salary of $2000 more a year by 2020.

So 1% of teachers will receive a one-time $10,000 stipend, and 25% of teachers will get $2000 extra annually. Where does that leave the other 74%? What will inspire young teachers to come to North Carolina, or to stay in their jobs? Who will work in lower performing schools or districts, knowing that they can earn more out of state, at easier jobs? Rewarding teachers for performance can be a fantastic tool for inspiring leadership, but it cannot be the only one.



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  1. Jenny Anderson

    There is so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to begin. So here’s just one thought – from personal experience. What about the music or art teacher that provides the one place in the day where a child is completely successful? Her efforts may go unnoticed, but her class is the reason that child comes to school without a fight with her mom every day. And once this young lady is there and happily anticipating 3rd period other teachers have the chance to reach out to her and help her achieve. And she does, gradually, despite her learning difficulties in these classes. So which teacher here would get the reward? Until a child can see her self-worth and experience success she is doomed to failure. It is often the teacher in a “non-academic” class – art, music, PE, technology – that gives her that opportunity. And how often does that teacher’s contribution to her success get rewarded?

  2. c day

    What about the school counselor? Where do we fit in this mess? As usual, we’ll get left out but we are still held accountable like everyone else…and we all need to be accountable. When the state finds themselves short of educators in the next few years, we’ll all wring our hands and wonder why….or wonder why no new businesses and industries want to locate in a state near the bottom. But, as usual, we all will rise to the occasion and do our best for our students. We’ve always done more with less, and have risen to the challenge. We shall persevere….onward and upward…

  3. Harold McKinney

    Dear Governor,
    Teaching is not a contest. It’s one for all and all for the student. What you propose is an anathema to the task of a mature educator. We have to work together to make each other successful. Your plan tears at the fiber of what makes for real learning, total commitment to giving each student all that is needed. In this approach the varied contributions of every teacher involved fit together in a synergistic whole. Is your arm more important than your hand or vice versa? You better appreciate and care for them both. Don’t try to set them into competition with each other. They have to work together for common purpose.

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