GOP seeks higher NC teacher pay

Spectators in the Alexander Square parking garage watch thousands of protesters march through downtown Raleigh, N.C. in what organizers describe as a "Mass Moral March" near the State Capitol building Saturday Feb. 8, 2014.  Nearly 200 organizations are joining the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the "Moral March on Raleigh," a new name for the "Historic Thousands on Jones Street," as it was originally called. Jones Street referred to the street where the Legislative Building stands and the usual terminus of the march. Advocates are angry about bills Gov. Pat McCrory  has signed into law, including the refusal to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law; a reduction in unemployment benefits; an elections-overhaul law that requires photo identification to vote in person; the elimination of the earned income tax credit; and taxpayer-funded grants for low-income children to attend private K-12 schools. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Chuck Liddy)
Spectators in the Alexander Square parking garage watch thousands of protesters march through downtown Raleigh, N.C. in what organizers describe as a "Mass Moral March" near the State Capitol building Saturday Feb. 8, 2014. Nearly 200 organizations are joining the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the "Moral March on Raleigh," a new name for the "Historic Thousands on Jones Street," as it was originally called. Jones Street referred to the street where the Legislative Building stands and the usual terminus of the march. Advocates are angry about bills Gov. Pat McCrory has signed into law, including the refusal to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law; a reduction in unemployment benefits; an elections-overhaul law that requires photo identification to vote in person; the elimination of the earned income tax credit; and taxpayer-funded grants for low-income children to attend private K-12 schools. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Chuck Liddy)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Gov. Pat McCrory and other Republican leaders will propose Monday a higher minimum salary for North Carolina’s least experienced public school teachers as part of a long-awaited proposal designed to improve morale and retention.

The plan, detailed in a document obtained by The Associated Press, would in part ensure all public school teachers make a base salary of at least $33,000 during the 2014-15 school year and at least $35,000 the following year.

McCrory, Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest planned to make “a major education policy announcement” Monday morning at Ragsdale High School in Guilford County, where McCrory attended in the 1970s. McCrory’s office declined to provide additional details, but legislators have said a pay announcement would come this week.

Not counting local supplements, North Carolina’s public school teachers with zero to five years of experience currently make a base salary of $30,800. Teachers have had one experience-based salary increase since the 2008-09 school year, and that increase was 1.2 percent in 2012. Teachers with six and seven years of experience currently earn a base salary of less than $33,000. At least 24,000 teachers would benefit from the increase, according to the document explaining the pay proposal.

The new salary floors are estimated to cost roughly $200 million over the two years, the document said. The General Assembly would have to approve any plan before it goes to McCrory’s desk, but a scene of Republican unity Monday could signal an increase that will almost assuredly occur during this election year.

The salary proposal would equate to a 7.1 percent increase for the next school year for those with bachelor’s degrees currently at the bottom of the teacher pay schedule. Going from $33,000 to $35,000 would be another 6 percent increase.

North Carolina was ranked 47th during 2012-13 among the states for average starting salaries, according to the National Education Association. The $35,000 minimum would vault North Carolina into the middle of those rankings and near the top of the list for Southeastern rivals.

While in charge of the legislature, Democrats and later Republicans blamed the lack of pay raises on the Great Recession and the slowing recovery producing anemic state revenues.

This past year McCrory and GOP legislative leaders said a Medicaid shortfall approaching $500 million siphoned away funds. Critics of Republicans say the lack of a pay raises reinforced what they called the GOP’s drive to harm public education in North Carolina.

McCrory and lawmakers have said they’re committed to passing teacher raises during this year’s legislative session. The governor formed a teacher advisory committee to receive input. Other organizations also have chimed in with options.

The governor and legislative leaders have said they want to reward teachers for classroom performance. McCrory also said last year he wanted to tweak a law phasing out higher pay for advance degrees so that teachers seeking a master’s degree would still get a salary bump even if they don’t finish before this spring.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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