Like many of the teachers across the state, Clinton High School’s Ronnie Warren is concerned about his longevity pay. Warren, as well as other teachers, expressed that concern to state budget leaders during a special visit to the school Wednesday afternoon.
N.C. Senator Brent Jackson (R-Sampson) and state budget director Andrew Heath stopped in at the local high school to tour the facility and discuss the state’s commitment to education and teachers. As part of that visit, Jackson and Heath fielded questions from selected teachers about the projected increase in teacher pay, as well as the halt of bonus pay for teachers with a master’s degree or National Board certification.
According to Heath, of the state’s $22.3 billion budget, 57 percent or $12.8 billion, goes to support education. This year’s budget, according to state officials, made significant investments in teacher pay increases, textbooks and classroom connectivity.
“We are very concerned about public education,” Jackson said as he sat before a group of teachers and school leaders.
Warren, who is an agriculture teacher at Clinton High School, questioned Jackson and Heath on the state’s decision to incorporate teacher longevity pay into the yearly salary, rather than paying it as a yearly bonus.
“From what I can tell, we don’t get that money anymore,” Warren said. “It’s like it was a pay cut for us.”
According to Jackson, that longevity pay is spread out among a teachers 10 or 12 monthly payments. It was never the state’s intention to stop teachers from getting that longevity pay.
Along with the change in longevity pay distribution, Warren and other teachers questioned the state’s decision to stop rewarding teachers for earning their master’s degree or National Board certification.
“With all the changes made, don’t you think you are pushing the younger people away from wanting to teach,” Warren asked.
Both Jackson and Heath assured teachers that the state’s intentions were never to push teachers out of the system or push potential teachers away from the idea of education, but rather, maintaining a positive environment for educators and retaining younger teachers within the state system.
While state employees, like teachers and those in the educational system, are currently receiving a state benefit package that includes retirement and benefits, Jackson said cutting those may be a possibility one day. However, Jackson added, he, along with other state officials, understands the importance of those benefits, which adds to a teacher’s overall salary.
“Our original focus was to get salaries up,” Heath said. ” We didn’t strip any pay for those who are in the system. As our state grows, we can hopefully get teacher pay higher.”
Comparing the 96,000 teachers to a battleship, Heath said turning the system and problems around takes time, but the current government plans to make the pay better for the state’s teachers.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.