Last updated: May 09. 2014 7:53AM - 1804 Views
By - mmurphy@civitasmedia.com

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LAURINBURG — Members of the Scotland County Board of Education are meeting with optimism the framework announced on Wednesday by Gov. Pat McCrory to increase compensation for the state’s educators.

The governor’s initiative, which if approved by the General Assembly would take effect in the 2015-2016 budget year, would increase pay for starting teachers from $30,800 to $33,000. On the scale currently in place, teachers are paid less than $32,000 until their eighth year in the classroom.

The plan also provides for 10 percent salary supplements for teachers with advanced degrees in the subject that they teach.

“I’m really grateful that this conversation has come about,” said school board member Darrel Gibson. “It’s high time for the way teachers are paid to be revamped.

“I think even a small increase will do so much for teacher morale and help us to do so much for education in our state.”

Board chairman Charles Brown expects, in addition to McCrory’s plan, drastic reversals in education policies passed during last year’s regular session when the General Assembly convenes next week for the short session.

“I think our representatives and state senators have heard from people in the education world more than they ever have in the history of North Carolina,” he said. “I think they’ve gotten phone calls, I think they’ve gotten letters, I think they’ve gotten stopped on the street, emailed, Twittered, everything.”

Earlier this year, school systems statewide were in the process of carrying out legislation eliminating teacher tenure by 2018. That process involved each district offering 25 percent of its tenured teachers a four-year contract and $5,000 in bonuses over the next four years in lieu of their tenure.

But as the Durham and Guilford school boards have taken to the courts to resist that law, its implementation has been suspended as the N.C. Department of Public Instruction has instructed school administrators not to offer those contracts until further notice.

With pressure placed on legislatures, many of whom are campaigning for reelection this year on a platform of school improvement, Gibson is hopeful that the same legislators whose policies have been perceived as damaging to North Carolina’s public school system will work in the coming weeks to reverse them.

“Given the decisions made here recently by our legislature it does cause some worry because they have not been pro-education, but I am hoping that legislators will see the need,” he said.

“What teachers do and they way that they’re asked to teach differs now. We’ve changed curriculum over and over, we’ve changed our grading scales — everything has changed in education except how our teachers are rewarded.”

Gibson also hoped that some of the finer points of the governor’s initiative may be altered in their course through the General Assembly, such as a reconstructed pay scale in which teachers reach the highest tier — $50,000 — after 16 years of experience.

That plan, which would take effect by 2018, would increase pay for new teachers more quickly in an attempt to keep them in the profession. Teachers making more than $50,000 currently would not see their pay reduced.

“You know he has been given counsel by education advisors, so anything he has come up with with has been discussed by those around him who feel that this would be a pretty wise way to go about it,” Brown said. “Whether or not it gets traction with other people, we shall see.”

McCrory’s initiative also allows teachers to receive bonuses and salary supplements for teaching in hard-to-staff schools or unpopular subjects, and includes a scholarship fund for veterans recently discharged from a North Carolina installation that would enable them to attend UNC system schools at the in-state rate.

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 17. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.

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