Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Monday that his budget will call for an average 5 percent raise for teachers next year, with another average 5 percent raise planned the following year.
The plan is to get average teacher salaries in the state up to the national average over the next five years, and make North Carolina the leader in the Southeast, Cooper said.
Under Cooper’s plan the state average teacher pay would be more than $62,000 by 2021-22, increasing by about $2,5000 each year to catch up to the growth of the national average teacher pay.
The plan would cost $813 million over the biennium and bring the average teacher salary to $52,000 in 2017-18 and nearly $55,000 in 2018-19.
The proposal would also include a $150 stipend for teachers to use to purchase classroom needs.
“These aren’t just investments in our teachers, they are lasting investments in our economy and in our own children’s future,” Cooper said. “Education is part of North Carolina’s legacy, but recently we’ve fallen behind. My proposal is a serious, multi-year increase in teacher salaries that will get us to the national average so we can show our teachers the respect they deserve.”
State Republican leaders released responses to Cooper’s plan on Monday after the governor’s announcement.
Senate President Pro Tem Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said, “After he opposed recent Republican budgets that increased average teacher pay by 15.5 percent, we are pleased Roy Cooper has finally joined legislative efforts to undo the damage of years of Democratic teacher furloughs and teacher pay freezes. We look forward to reviewing his complete budget proposal.”
Berger is referring to pay freezes that the state installed during the recession under Democratic Gov. Bev Purdue and Democratic legislative control.
Republicans took majorities in the House and Senate in 2011 with sweeping legislative victories.
Last year Republicans passed a 4.7 percent pay increase in the most recent budget, following a 7 percent pay raise for teachers in 2014.
Speaker of the House Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said that he is also pleased the governor will be joining the legislature in pushing for pay increases for teachers.
“Republicans have made bold and historic commitments to raising teacher pay in North Carolina since 2014, so we’re excited Gov. Cooper wants to join us in that effort,” he said. “Republicans raised teacher pay while cutting taxes and providing relief to hard-working North Carolinians, so we hope the details of Gov. Cooper’s proposal will mirror our successful approach.”
The ultimate decision for how much of a raise teachers get in the next budget will rest with the Legislature while veto-proof majorities exist in both the House and Senate leaving much of what Cooper’s budget will entail, including his plan for teacher pay raises, as more of a suggestion.
How the budget writing process filters out over the next few weeks will likely be a model for how the relationship will develop between Cooper and the Republican-led General Assembly.
Dr. Bob Luebke, senior policy analyst for the Civitas Institute, said that he is interested to see what the Republican response will be to Cooper’s plan going forward, especially in light of Berger’s plan to increase teacher pay already.
“I’ll be interested to hear what Republicans think of the Gov. Cooper’s teacher pay proposal, especially since Sen. Berger has said he is committed to increasing statewide average teacher salary of $55,000 by 2018-19,” he said. “I’m sure Republicans will not be fond of sharing credit with the governor for raising teacher pay.”
Luebke also said that there are some possible problems with Cooper’s plan already.
“There are two areas where Cooper’s plan may have problems,” he said. “First the bill takes a big bite out of the projected state budget surplus, using about $406 million per year over the next two years from an expected $525 million state budget surplus. Secondly, the bill provides raises to all teachers and fails to tie teacher pay and teacher pay raises to academic performance, a common criticism of the current teacher pay schedule.”