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6 options on NC teacher pay

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25 percent plan

The state legislature voted last year to offer $500-a-year raises and four-year contracts for 25 percent of each district’s qualified teachers (they must have proficient job ratings and three years’ experience in the district). Teachers who accept must relinquish their tenure, which expires in 2018 for all teachers.

•  Strengths: State lawmakers call it a step toward performance-based rewards, giving local districts freedom to decide which teachers get the contracts and raises.

•  Drawbacks: Teachers and many district leaders object to the cap, saying strong teachers will be excluded. Many also say the raise is too small, and because it is linked to surrendering tenure, some teachers say they’ll refuse.

•  Cost: $10.2 million.

•  Prospects: The N.C. Association of Educators and the Guilford and Durham County school boards have sued to block the plan; a judge recently granted the two districts an injunction. Other districts, including CMS and Wake, are asking legislators to revoke or delay the plan.

‘Make them whole’

Several educator and advocacy groups have called for legislators to restore teachers to the salaries they’d be entitled to on the pay scale that was in place before pay freezes started in 2009. For instance, a fifth-year teacher now makes a state minimum of $30,800, the same as one with no experience. That would rise to $35,800, the fifth-year level before the freezes.

•  Strengths: Would help North Carolina regain lost ground in national standings and provide raises for teachers at all experience levels.

•  Drawbacks: Pumps a lot of money into reviving a pay scale that state leaders say is outdated and dysfunctional.

•  Cost: $428.5 million for teachers, another $25.4 million if principals and assistant principals are included.

•  Prospects: Slim.

Career ladder

CMS is a national pioneer in a push to create jobs that let effective classroom teachers earn significant raises for expanding their responsibilities. The “opportunity culture” approach that debuted in four schools this year will expand to 17 more next year.

•  Strengths: Touted as a way to help more students benefit from the most effective teachers, who co-teach with colleagues and/or use technology to reach more classes. Can be done by eliminating or restructuring existing jobs. Raises are significant: Up to $23,000 a year in the CMS pilot.

•  Drawbacks: Proponents say this is only one piece of pay reform. Public Impact, the consulting firm that created the “opportunity culture” plan, calls for a 10 percent increase in spending for across-the-board raises and other changes.

•  Cost: The new jobs are billed as cost-neutral, but the Belk Foundation is paying $505,000 for consultants to help 17 schools design programs. The full Public Impact plan would cost about $450 million statewide.

•  Prospects: Expect to see lots of interest, nationally and statewide. But the program is too new to know whether it will yield results and be sustainable.

Vigdor plan

Jacob Vigdor, a professor of public policy and economics at Duke University, outlined a reform plan to eliminate pay for advanced degrees, reduce the 12 percent raise granted for National Board certification, increase pay for early-career teachers, eliminate or reduce raises for teachers later in their career and revise the pension system.

•  Strengths: Designed to be more attractive to starting teachers and help them reach peak earnings sooner.

•  Drawbacks: Sure to be unpopular with experienced teachers. Vigdor suggests the only practical path would be a gradual phase-in, with taxpayers footing the bill for the conversion.

•  Cost: Estimated at $1.6 billion over a 20-year phase in.

•  Prospects: Won’t happen this year, but GOP leaders and conservative reformers like the ideas for a long-term strategy.

CarolinaCAN plan

The N.C. Campaign for Achievement Now, an advocacy group known as CarolinaCAN, has outlined a plan that combines many of the elements on the table: Increase teacher pay by 4 percent across the board in 2014; raise starting pay from $30,800 to $36,000 by 2016; revamp the pay scale to shift bigger raises to the earlier years; restore pay for advanced degrees that have a proven link to student achievement; create career pathway jobs and provide extra pay for teaching in hard-to-staff schools and subjects.

•  Strengths: Most say a long-range strategy should combine some or all of these elements.

•  Drawbacks: Each tactic has defenders and detractors.

•  Cost: $187.2 million for 4 percent raises. The plan suggests making tradeoffs to pay for most of the other changes, such as pulling money from professional development to provide raises for career ladder jobs.

•  Prospects: Won’t happen this year, but expect to see elements discussed during the 2015 long session.

GOP plan

Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican legislative leaders have announced a two-year plan to provide raises in the first 10 years of teachers’ career. The state minimum starting salary, currently $30,800, would rise to $35,000 by 2015-16.

Strengths: Many experts and advocates say the state needs to “frontload” its pay scale, providing bigger raises for early-career teachers during the years when they make the most progress and are most at risk of leaving the field.

•  Drawbacks: Many veteran teachers object to a plan that gives them nothing.

•  Cost: $200 million over two years.

•  Prospects: Strong.

Ann Doss Helms

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