Two Mecklenburg lawmakers say there’s a move afoot to give teachers more time to finish master’s degrees and get the 10 percent pay hike they expected when they enrolled in graduate school.
This year’s budget eliminates the pay for advanced degrees for anyone who hasn’t earned it in the 2013-14 school year. That means teachers who don’t get their degree by the end of the first semester are likely to be shut out, though state education officials are discussing whether the deadline can be extended to include the second semester.
State Reps. Bill Brawley and Ruth Samuelson, both members of the Republican majority, said Thursday they never meant to cut off additional pay for teachers who had already enrolled in graduate school.
“If you start a program based on a promise that was made, that promise has got to be kept,” Brawley said. “When I have made a mistake, I can own it.”
Samuelson said she and several other legislators agree and are trying to rally votes to revise the law in the 2014 session. The goal would be to announce that intention early so teachers could plan their course work accordingly.
“At this point, it’s an idea that has a fair amount of support but it’s not a done deal,” she said.
In North Carolina and across the country, there’s a move afoot to shift from the current model of teacher pay, based on experience and credentials, to one that is based on results in the classroom. The challenges are figuring out how to measure teacher effectiveness and finding money to reward top performers.
The budget bill passed this summer creates a task force to study performance pay but offers only limited rewards: As tenure is phased out, districts can offer four-year contracts with a $500 annual raise to 25 percent of their teachers.
Brawley said he supports the shift to performance pay but didn’t grasp that the plan to phase out pay for advanced degrees would hit teachers who were working on those degrees.
UNC Charlotte’s College of Education, for instance, has been working with about 400 teachers currently enrolled in graduate programs to figure out if it’s possible to meet the deadline. Elizabeth Cranfill, a 25-year-old who teaches children with autism at W.M. Irvin Elementary in Cabarrus County, is taking five courses this semester, including her thesis, to qualify for the pay she expected when she signed up.
“I love school. I like being a student as much as I like being a teacher,” she said. But she said she’s frustrated by seeing a pay hike that was promised taken away, with little to replace it. “It’s not a good time to be a public school teacher right now.”
For others, though, there’s no way to finish in time, especially while continuing to work in classrooms.
Those are the teachers Brawley and Samuelson said deserve an extension. While nothing has been agreed on, they say they’d support a plan that gives teachers who were enrolled when the 2013-14 budget passed more time, perhaps two years, to finish their degree and qualify for the current pay scale.
“My intention was to tell people not to start now,” Brawley said. “We are going to change the compensation plan in the future.”
Helms: 704-358-5033 Twitter: @anndosshelms
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