CarolinaCAN, an advocacy group pushing for a better system of teacher pay, is calling for 4 percent across-the-board raises this year and a plan to raise starting pay by more than $5,000 by 2016.
"Investing in Excellence," a report released today, calls for a long-term investment to make North Carolina the Southeast's leader in starting and average teacher pay. The group's plan calls for front-loading the pay scale so teachers get the biggest raises in early in their career (five years of pay freezes have accomplished the opposite effect) and creating high-paying career pathways for top teachers, similar to the "Opportunity Culture" jobs being piloted in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
"The first step to attracting and retaining excellent teachers in North Carolina is increasing base pay enough to make the profession competitive with teaching in nearby states and to put it at least in the ballpark of the other professions competing for top college graduates," the report says, citing a cost of $187.2 million for a 4 percent raise.
New teachers with a bachelor's degree currently start at $30,800 on the state pay scale, though many districts supplement that. The CarolinaCAN plan calls for bumping that to $36,000 by 2016, which would move North Carolina ahead of South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee if those states make no change.
The report says some reforms can come at little cost. For instance, the group supports the state's plan to eliminate extra pay for advanced degrees in lower grades, but says those savings should be used to restore the additional pay in higher grades, where graduate work in the subject area being taught often leads to higher student achievement.
N.C. taxpayers appear to be willing to foot the bill for teacher raises, according to a High Point University poll of 421 adults from around the state. That poll found 72 percent willing to accept a tax hike to get N.C. teacher pay to the national average in four years.
The poll also asked for reactions to the many education changes the state made last summer. Most popular were the Read to Achieve program and expansion of Teach for America. Frozen teacher pay, lower per-pupil spending, cutting extra pay for master's degrees and removing class-size caps were unpopular with strong majorities of respondents.
Finally, a handful of educators have contacted me over the last couple of weeks asking about rumors that the state is considering a "60/30/10 plan" that would put teachers into three career categories, with fixed pay for each and pay cuts for many of them.
That's coming from an N.C. Policy Watch blog post about an idea drafted by Lodge McCammon, a former Wake County teacher who has also worked for N.C. State's Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. There's no indication that this is a formal proposal that has traction with state lawmakers. As Policy Watch reporter Lindsay Wagner reported in a follow-up blog, McCammon described the plan as an informal "brainstorming project" and the Friday Institute is not associated with it.
But as Wagner notes, and as many around Charlotte would agree, it's always wise to keep an ear open for the ideas that are floating around Raleigh.