The surge in Charlotte-area charter schools means competition not only for students, but for teachers.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has long been trying to craft a new type of pay scale that would entice and keep talented instructors. Project LIFT is taking the lead, rolling out new classroom leadership posts next year in four of the westside CMS schools it encompasses. Teachers tapped for those positions will earn up to $23,000 a year extra for continuing to teach while overseeing colleagues.
But one charter school director says the emphasis on testing in traditional public schools, particularly as it is used to rate and pay teachers, gives her a better shot at recruiting faculty.
"With the pendulum where it's going, great teachers are going to fly out of the classroom," she predicted.
North Carolina's charters are required to give students the same state exams as other public schools, and they get the same school ratings based on those scores. Warner said she doesn't have a problem with that, but believes those tests shouldn't be allowed to dominate the school year.
Unlike other public schools, charters don't have to use the state's teacher pay scale. That could mean higher pay, though charters have to work with roughly the same public money that other schools get. Warner said at her school the paycheck isn't the draw. "I think every teacher deserves to make at least $60,000 a year," she said. "We're at about half that."
Charters also aren't bound by tenure, a move the state legislature is considering for all public schools. "Great teachers don't need tenure," said Warner, "and bad teachers don't deserve it."
Meanwhile, CMS leaders say they're eager to work with the state on crafting better ways to evaluate and pay teachers. The teachers who have been advising them are enthusiastic about creating classroom leadership jobs that bring extra pay for extra leadership and proven skills. But Superintendent Heath Morrison and the board said part of the problem is that base pay in North Carolina is just too low. Unless there's more money to work with, some said, performance pay and career ladders won't be enough. Morrison said CMS will by lobbying for "strategic compensation" coupled with an overall pay hike.
That last part may be a tough sell to cost-conscious legislators.