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Veto override? Teacher raises? What Halloween is like at the General Assembly

Unless something changes, teachers will get an average 3.9% raise over the next two years but no more under legislation that passed the House and Senate today mostly along party lines. 

The bill, part of a bargain offered by Republicans to Democrats, would have given teachers 4.4% over two years if Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of the budget was defeated. But the veto override never happened before the legislature adjourned until November 13. According to the adjournment resolution, when lawmakers come back in November, they won’t be allowed to take up vetoes. Those cannot be considered again until the legislature reconvenes on January 14th, 2020. 

The adjournment does allow the legislature to take up conference reports in November, however, and it’s possible that budget-related items could be put into those. 

In the meantime, teachers are getting some pay raises, if the governor goes along with the legislature.

veto override
Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, introducing the teacher pay bill on the Senate floor. Alex Granados/EducationNC

“Nobody believes the Governor’s cheap rhetoric about teacher pay anymore. He has yet another opportunity to sign or veto a teacher raise,” Senator Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said in a press release. “If he signs it, Republicans will have delivered the sixth and seventh consecutive teacher pay increases. If he vetoes it, teachers will be the only ones in the state who get nothing. It’s time for him decide what he’s for and what he’s against.”

The pay plan bill has two sections, one that includes the original average 3.9% pay raise for teachers that will go through as long as the bill is signed by the governor. It also includes a 2% pay bump for non-certified personnel — like bus drivers and teacher assistants. Both of those were also in the budget. The second part includes additional money that would bump up teacher, non-certified personnel, and community college employee pay more than was in the budget. But that part is contingent on the veto override.

The new raises that did pass will go to teachers with 16 or more years of experience. They are retroactive to July 1, 2019. Teachers with fewer years of experience will get their step increases, assuming a bill that included them is signed by the governor. 

The Senate voted for the bill with almost no debate, but the discussion on the House floor was more heated. 

Rep. Billie Richardson, D-Cumberland, said that lawmakers should be ashamed that the state’s education system isn’t better than it is. 

“Why would a teacher want to teach in a mediocre system?” he asked. “Let’s get serious about this and fix the problem.” 

He said that not only did teachers need to be paid better, but lawmakers needed to allocate more resources to the state’s public school system. 

“It is time we stop fighting … and give our teachers a first-class system to teach in, and to pay our teachers a professional wage.” 

Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes, a teacher himself, bristled at the notion that the state’s school system is mediocre. 

“I don’t want to say that our system is mediocre,” he said. “And we are working from the bottom of our schools to the top of our schools to improve.” 

He went on to say that the teachers at his school in Wilkes County don’t care about speeches on the House floor. They just want to know when they’re going to get pay increases. 

“They’ve got reality. They’ve got to pay bills,” he said. “They’re expecting money. Their pay is frozen.” 

The debate on the House floor was cut off due to a legislative maneuver, but after the vote House Minority Leader Darren Jackson, D-Wake, touched on the pay plan, mentioning that his children are teachers or studying to go into education.

“I love teachers. I believe in teachers. We can do better,” he said.

Along with the bill that grants eligible teachers their step increases and principals a pay raise, and another that gives raises to community college employees, the pay increases now go on to the governor. 

This morning, Cooper condemned Republicans’ teacher pay “bargain.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, quickly sent out a press release that pointed out that teachers would get a 3.9% increase no matter what under the deal. It was only the additional .5% that was contingent on a veto override. 

“The Governor appears to be intentionally misleading the people he represents,” Berger said in the release. “That’s unacceptable.” 

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.