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Today is the first day of the General Assembly short session, and it seems that just about everybody is in agreement that teachers should get a pay raise. What isn’t clear is exactly what that will look like and when it will happen.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, had praise for Governor Pat McCrory’s pay proposal in a recent press conference on Senate budget priorities.

“I think Governor McCrory has actually set the right marker for us,” he said.

McCrory has proposed an average five percent pay raise for teachers and an average 3.5 percent bonus for teachers and principals. The bonus would be skewed toward veteran teachers, with those over 24 years of experience getting the equivalent of $5,000.

McCrory said his pay proposal would bring average teacher pay in the state to more than $50,000.

See McCrory’s press release on his budget. Below is a video of comments he made about his budget at the recent state Education Cabinet meeting.

Berger said Senate Republicans are committed to passing a teacher pay raise. However, when asked whether hitting the average $50,000 mark for teachers is a goal that would be reached this year, he seemed less certain.

“It’s a goal to get to. I don’t know if I can give you a specific timeline,” he said.

The fullness of government coffers, in particular, will help determine when that goal is reached, but Berger added a sunny note on state revenue projections.

“We are at this point in a situation where our revenues seem to be coming in higher than what projections are,” he said.

State budget director Andrew Heath put the projection at a $237 million surplus during the recent Education Cabinet meeting.

Berger also said that Senate Republicans will likely be looking at principal preparation and principal pay this session, though he didn’t give specifics. Still, Senate interest in those issues dovetails nicely with recommendations coming out of the House Select Committee on Education Strategy and Practice.

That committee has met eight times since the end of the 2015 long session of the General Assembly. It met for the last time last week and was putting the final touches on its committee report, which includes a list of recommendations.

A preliminary draft of the report shows support for both increasing school administrator salaries and funding for a principal preparation grant program.

On principal salaries, the draft report notes problems with the current principal salary schedule.

“The Committee finds that the current school administrator salary schedule has been modified multiple times since its creation, leading to a difficult to administer schedule that lacks transparency that fails to adequately compensate such administrators so as to attract and retain those needed, especially in low-performing schools.”

We did an extensive analysis of the principal pay schedule and its problems last year. Go here to read it.

The draft report goes on to recommend that the General Assembly “revise” the principal salary schedule to “improve administration, transparency, and better support teacher achievement.”

During the last day of the Committee on Education Strategy and Practices, Committee Chair, Rep. Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke, added this comment on principal compensation.

“I think there are some significant issues with the principal pay scale and that we probably have paid far less attention to what we are paying principals,” he said.

On principal preparation, the draft report supports funding for the principal preparation grant program and for the grants the program will dole out. The North Carolina Alliance for School Leadership is in charge of the program. It’s headed by Shirley Prince, who is also the executive director of the North Carolina Principals and Assistant Principals’ Association.  The Alliance for School Leadership will award grants to groups, organizations, etc, that will provide principal preparation.

While the draft report isn’t specific, it does have a section in support of increased teacher pay as well.

“The Committee recommends that the General Assembly develop a multi-year plan for sustained compensation improvements for teachers.”

However, is also says that salary increase goals are “subject to unexpected, significantly adverse economic developments impacting overall state revenues or expenditures.”

So the likelihood of salary increases over time will be dependent on the good fiscal health of the state.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.