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In a coda to the long session which ended on Oct. 31, Republicans proposed one more teacher pay proposal to Democrats and were promptly shot down this week.

This plan would increase salary raises for teachers to 4.9% if Senate Democrats “come together on a budget deal” with Republicans. The details of the budget deal proposal are vague in the press release.

To recap, a bill passed with the budget proposal of a 3.9% teacher pay increase before session closed. Republicans had offered to increase that amount to 4.4% if Democrats supported a veto override, but that didn’t happen before session ended. So, now, in the brief break before the General Assembly comes back to take up redistricting, Republicans are offering to bump that amount up even more. Also included in the deal is a one-time $1,000 bonus for teachers.

In a press release, Senate appropriations chairs Harry Brown, R-Onslow, Kathy Harrington, R-Gaston, and Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, reiterated their contention that Gov. Roy Cooper will not negotiate unless Medicaid expansion is part of the budget, something that Cooper and Democrats have denied.

“We gave the Senate Democrats one more chance to show they support teachers. Instead, they’re backing Gov. Cooper’s Medicaid ultimatum,” the senators stated in a press release. “It’s clear that Democrats are intent on blocking any and all teacher raises so they can turn around and blame Republicans.”
 
Senate minority leader Dan Blue, D-Wake, responded to the Republican proposal in a press release as well. 
 
“The math is simple: we can do more for our schools if Republicans give up on corporate tax cuts and pork projects in their budget,” he said in a press release. “That being said, Democratic leaders will not negotiate with Republicans on the premise of political threats.”

This morning, Cooper announced his veto of two bills that include educator pay raises. One would have increased pay for community college personnel. Another included the 3.9% pay raise for teachers that was included in the original budget.

On that veto, Cooper said in a statement: 

“The General Assembly continues to shortchange teachers and non-certified school personnel like cafeteria workers, bus drivers and teacher assistants, despite a robust economy and decent raises for other state employees. Educators deserve more if our schools are to remain competitive with other states and keep good teachers.”

He also said that he would negotiate educator pay raises separate and apart from any discussion of Medicaid expansion.

In a response to Cooper’s veto, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said in a statement that teachers need to ask what Cooper has ever done for them, saying that the governor has vetoed every teacher pay raise put before him. 

“Governor Cooper uses teachers as pawns, blocking their pay increases then trying to convince them it’s all the Republicans’ fault,” Berger said. “At some point, they’ll see his cynical ploy for what it really is.”

Finally, this afternoon, Cooper signed a bill passed by the General Assembly that grants eligible teachers their annual step pay increases. 

The North Carolina Association of Educators had this to say about it in a press release.

“On behalf of teachers throughout our state, we thank Governor Cooper for signing the Teacher Step Act this afternoon,” said NCAE President Mark Jewell. “While this is not a pay raise, the funding of these steps is very important to teachers in classrooms all over North Carolina. We now call on the General Assembly to negotiate with Governor Cooper on meaningful pay raises for all educators in order to fulfill the obligations to the children and families who are depending on them.”

In other news, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest released his education plan as part of his campaign for governor of North Carolina. Read his full platform here and watch the videos released about the platform here.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.