Only days after Gov. Pat McCrorys pledge to get N.C. teachers a needed pay increase, one Republican legislative leader was showing how difficult that might be to get through the state legislature.
On Thursday, House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stams office sent a press release explaining how N.C. teachers had the opportunity for salary increases in the current years budget. All it would take is school districts taking advantage of flexibility lawmakers have given them to use state money designated for one purpose gifted students or career technical education, for instance and use it for another like paying teachers more. Or, school districts could use money they get from their local governments to boost teacher pay.
Got that? Problem solved. Theres really no need for the governor and legislature to carve out a plan to commit resources to increase teacher pay.
Stams office even included a helpful list of where the states school districts could legally rob Peter to pay Paul. Stam points out, also helpfully, that the legislature last year opened several areas that had been off-limits for such transfers. This includes funds that had been restricted for disadvantaged students, at-risk students, limited English proficient students and low-wealth schools.
So, want to pay teachers more? Raid those coffers and do it.
It would be wrong and unfair for lawmakers to punt this issue to county governments and local school districts. For one thing, in low-wealth counties, local governments often cant and dont provide additional funds for education. By relying on them to pay teachers adequately, lawmakers would be intentionally creating a situation where poorer communities could not hope to attract and keep good teachers. The recession has caused even counties in better economic shape to pull back on education funding. Moreover, forcing school districts to take money from programs teachers need to do their jobs well only creates more problems for the teachers and their students.
Stams press release, though, used the states two largest school districts Wake County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg as examples of how districts can use what they already have to pay teachers more.
Each of the 115 LEAs can pay for salary supplements from their local supplemental funds, Stams office wrote. For example the Wake County School Board has a $1,170,329,591 billion [sic] budget, of which $328 million comes from the County. It would cost the county about $5 million to provide a 1 percent salary supplement to each of the LEAs classroom teachers.
Stams office cited CMS and its Project LIFT program for using flexibility of local funds to give teachers salary supplements. Said the press release: While Project Lift receives supplemental grant funding, that supplemental grant funding was not used to provide salary supplements for teachers. Salary supplements for teachers were paid for by re-apportioning local funds.
The release ends with this: There are 95,000 teachers in North Carolina. They are in every public school and in every classroom!!! Each teacher can help his or her LEA run the schools more efficiently. Those savings can be converted to extra pay for teachers under existing law.
Stam isnt alone in this view. The governors budget last year called for a pay increase for teachers, though meager at 1 percent. And state lawmakers rejected that.
So McCrorys belated pledge to put in place a teacher pay plan that doesnt put a Band-Aid on the issue with a small, one-time boost a plan that would make North Carolina competitive was welcome.
But Stams press release shows thats not a done deal yet. Getting the legislature on board could be a chore.
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