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Why the governor and Republicans can’t agree on teacher pay

A bill that provides step increases for teachers and pay raises for principals passed the Senate today while Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper criticized legislative Republicans for their position on teacher pay.

Cooper sent out a press release today saying that he had sent a letter and had discussions with Republican leaders in which he expressed his willingness to negotiate just on teacher pay. He said in the press release that his proposal was rejected. 

“I’ve offered to negotiate teacher pay raises separately from the rest of the budget so that hardworking teachers can finally get the raises they deserve, and it’s disappointing that Republican leaders have not accepted my offer,” said Cooper. “Teachers shouldn’t be caught up in Raleigh politics while other state employees get raises.”

A separate press release from the office of Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, confirmed that Cooper reached out last week, but said that negotiations on teacher pay would affect “budget availability” for other programs. The press release states that Berger told Cooper they could instead negotiate on all the remaining portions of the budget and that Berger asked Cooper to continue negotiations without requiring Medicaid expansion. The press release says Cooper refused.

“Gov. Cooper’s behavior is not helpful. He should at least be truthful with the public and tell them that I offered yet again to negotiate the entire budget, and he yet again refused, citing his Medicaid expansion ultimatum,” Berger said in the press release. “If he would drop his ridiculous ultimatum, we could have a budget deal tomorrow.”

In the absence of a deal on the full budget, the General Assembly has been trying a strategy of passing mini-budget bills that contain piecemeal provisions from the spending plan that Cooper vetoed.

Two of those, both related to education, passed the full Senate today. One would give teachers their annual step increases and provide raises for principals. The bill does not, however, include teacher pay raises, because there is contention on that issue. 

The budget included an average 3.9% pay raise over two years, but all new raises would go to teachers with 16 years of experience or more. Cooper’s plan would have included an average 9.1% increase for teachers as well as the restoration of master’s pay for newly hired teachers.

The bill also does not include pay raises for non-certified personnel — workers such as bus drivers, janitors, and others. 

The other bill which passed the Senate today includes funding for personnel raises for community colleges around the state. The bill provides $12.4 million recurring in the first year and $24.8 million recurring in the second year for community college personnel, including faculty.

These bills go next to the House.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.