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Gov. Cooper talks teacher pay in Pitt County high school

Governor Roy Cooper spoke of his plan to raise teacher salaries Wednesday at South Central High School in Winterville. 

“We’re here today to talk about a critical issue,” Cooper said to press after visiting privately with teachers and walking through several classrooms at the school. “And that is investing significantly in teacher pay.”

Cooper has been visiting schools and spreading a portion of his upcoming budget that calls for an average five percent increase in teacher pay this year, and another five percent increase next year. 

“It is the largest two-year investment in teacher salaries in a decade,” Cooper said. 

He said he won’t need to raise taxes to reach the combined average 10 percent increase over the next two years. The rest of Cooper’s budget, he said, will roll out in the next few weeks.

Cooper is also proposing a $100 stipend to help with teachers’ needs at the beginning of the school year, like the cost of basic classroom supplies.

“I think it’s important that we have this tangible acknowledgement that we appreciate the many sacrifices of our teachers and what they have to do to ensure that kids have what they need to learn,” Cooper said. 

He said he cares deeply — which he says his budget will reflect — about investing in education from early childhood to post-secondary education.

“But I thought it was important for me to lead with this issue of teacher pay,” Cooper said.  

Cooper said he will continue to raise teacher pay at this rate, with help from the legislature, which will put the state at the top average teacher salary in the Southeast in three years. North Carolina, Cooper said, would reach at least the national average in five years.

Standing beside Cooper were teachers from South Central, administrators, and local board of education members. Also present was the mayor of Greenville, Allen Thomas. 

Cooper talked about his deep roots in public education and in eastern North Carolina. His mother, he said, was a public high school teacher in Nash County who he watched perfect lesson plans at home. He said he came from seven or eight generations of farming in this part of the state.

Cooper said the reputation of excellent public education has started to slip, and the state has lost teachers to neighboring states with higher pay and “more respect.”  

“I believe that, despite all of the partisan rhetoric that you’re seeing going back and forth on this issue about who’s to blame and who takes the credit, we all need to start looking forward,” Cooper said.

“And I hear positive things about teacher pay from (Republicans). Let’s take those areas of agreement and let’s go forward and do what we need to do for public education.”

Watch Cooper’s full press conference below.

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.