North Carolina governor says teacher pay raises should come earlier

Gov. Pat McCrory said Thursday his administration is looking at many options to increase pay for public school teachers, including offering raises earlier in an educator's career as an incentive to stay in the profession.

The governor said he's also considering greater emphasis on performance-based pay and higher salaries for teachers in high-demand fields such as math and science. Traditional across-the-board pay increases also are possible, he said.

"Several options are on the plate," he said outside the Executive Mansion before lunch with the North Carolina Business Committee for Education, a group of education-minded business leaders.

North Carolina teachers have had one annual raise in the past five years. A teacher with a bachelor's degree who started in the 2009-10 school year making a base salary of $30,430 just about $400 more this year.

The average starting teacher salary nationwide was $35,672 in 2011-12, according to the National Education Association. Not counting additional funds offered by some districts or having an advanced degree, a North Carolina teacher must have 10 years of experience to reach that salary level today.

The low salaries, combined with spending reductions for teacher assistants and supplies, have contributed to low morale for many teachers, leading to some demonstrations outside schools and at McCrory's office one day last week.

McCrory said he would take input from many groups, including his teacher advisory committee and the business leaders group, before offering proposals to the Legislature. He said shifting pay raises toward the beginning of a teacher's career could help lower attrition rates, but he gave no detailed proposal. The legislature meets in May.

"Right now the increase in their pay is happening so slowly that many of them may be leaving after the first several years, when we're losing potential good career teachers for life," McCrory told reporters.

The Republican governor offered in his budget a 1 percent across-the-board raise for teachers and state employees this year, but the GOP-led legislature didn't include it. McCrory and lawmakers have blamed Medicaid shortfalls for siphoning away money for those raises.

Democratic critics and the North Carolina Association of Educators argued Republicans have slashed education funding since taking charge of the legislature in 2011 and approved tax reductions that left less funds for public schools. McCrory said last week that problems with compensation and student testing have gone back five years — before he took office and before Republicans held control of the House and Senate.

This year's state budget also included phasing out a 10 percent salary supplement for teachers with a master's degree and another $253 per month for teachers with doctoral degrees. McCrory's administration has suggested the governor may want lawmakers to revisit ending the supplements.