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House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, along with other House Republican leaders, released budget plans for teacher and principal pay at a press conference earlier today.

The House Republican plan includes an average 4.8% pay raise for teachers (Editor’s Note: The following day, lawmakers clarified the teacher pay raise, saying that the actual average pay raise for teachers is 4.6%) in the first year of the biennium, an average 6.3% raise for assistant principals in the first year, and an average 10% pay increase for principals in the first year. Moore said that the average teacher salary should reach $55,600 by 2020 under this pay plan.

In addition, the principal salary schedule will now be tied to the teacher salary schedule under the budget so that if the teacher salary schedule changes, they both do.

If passed, these teacher pay raises over the biennium will mark the sixth and seventh consecutive pay increases from the General Assembly. The pay raises have started to make their impact felt. North Carolina moved up in the national rankings of average teacher pay from 37th last year to 29th this year.

“Our entire state can be very proud of this momentum that we have around these educational funding initiatives,” Moore said. 

Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes, said that the teacher pay plan in this budget focuses on veteran teachers because the state is seeing issues with teachers of 26 years or more retiring early. The pay plan will bring the top teacher salary to $60,500 at step 30 on the teacher pay scale.

Moore said that previous pay plans focused on teachers earlier in their careers because lawmakers were hearing from the state Department of Public Instruction that those were the ones most likely to leave their jobs. Now, things have changed, he said.

“Now we want to go back and do more for our veteran teachers,” said Moore. 

In his budget plan, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper proposed $600 million over two years to increase teacher pay as part of his goal of reaching the highest average salary in the southeast. This would round out to an average increase of 9.1% over the biennium for teachers.

The House Republican budget would also restore extra pay for teachers with advanced degrees, a move that many critics of the Republican-led General Assembly have been asking for since that pay was eliminated in the state budget in 2013.

 “By doing that, restoring that policy, that really focuses on teachers that have less than 10 years,” Elmore said. “Many who have master’s pay have been grandfathered in. We see this as a retention tool.”

The NC Teaching Fellows program will also be expanded to include more universities, though the specific institutions haven’t been chosen yet.

This comes just one day before the full House appropriations committee takes up the budget at the same time that a teacher rally descends on downtown Raleigh. At least 33 school districts around the state have closed in anticipation of the rally. Among the demands from the teachers attending the rally are a 5% pay raise for all school employees, as well as a $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, a 5% cost of living adjustment for retirees, and restoration of extra pay for teachers with advanced degrees.

The House released other details of its budget plan late last week, including changes to school performance grades and money for school safety programs.

Moore also mentioned the teacher rally, saying that there is a two-hour break in the appropriations process tomorrow from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. so that legislators can meet with teachers. 

Expect more details of these pay plans tomorrow when they are discussed in the House appropriations committee, which starts at 8:30 a.m.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.