Friday, May 30, 2014

Senate plan: Big raises, big questions

For Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the Senate's sweeping plan to raise and revamp teacher pay has officials scrambling to sort out its implications.

At a news conference less than 24 hours after seeing the plan, Superintendent Heath Morrison was quick to say he's  "very grateful"  that the Senate has proposed raises that would make a real difference in North Carolina's national standing and teachers' ability to earn a living wage.  "We certainly support that increase at the state level being as high as possible,"  he said.


But he noted that Gov. Pat McCrory's budget and the Senate's are substantially different,  with the House version yet to come.  Both plans revealed so far contain significant changes in pay and other conditions for teachers,  and Gov. Pat McCrory is already raising challenges about the Senate's plan for education.

That means huge unanswered questions as CMS and other districts prepare for a budget year that starts July 1 and a school year that starts Aug. 25.  Morrison said he worried about the tradeoffs in the Senate plan;  CMS stands to lose 900 teacher assistants,  77 teachers,  $3.8 million in transportation money and $200,000 for central offices,  he said.

Morrison,  an unaffiliated voter who tries to stay out of partisan crossfire,  said he's not opposed to rethinking tenure  (he prefers to call it due process),  but prefers that such a discussion would have happened more deliberately,  with educators involved.  The Senate plan came out late Wednesday and is expected to be approved by week's end.

But Senate leader Phil Berger told me Thursday afternoon that he and other GOP senators have been listening for three years,  since they took control of the General Assembly.  The biggest message from educators,  parents and policymakers,  he said,  is that teachers are the most important factor in children's education,  and North Carolina's low national ranking for teacher pay threatens public education.

"We've heard loud and clear the complaints that we're in the 40s,  and not even the high 40s,  on teacher pay,  and that has become an embarrassment for the state,"  he said.  He said the Senate plan would move North Carolina up to 27th  --  assuming every teacher chooses  to give up tenure and move onto the higher pay track with year-to-year contract.  "It is critical for North Carolina to move ahead and to do everything we can to improve outcomes in public education.  Teachers are at the center of that."

Berger said his party made tough choices to make a big raise possible,  including sacrificing teacher assistants.  But he said party leaders have also made concessions,  such as letting teachers keep tenure if that's what's most important to them.   (Not all teachers are grateful;  N.C. Association of Educators President Rodney Ellis said it amounted to treating teachers like  "political pawns in an election year,"  and suggested tenure provided the protection teachers needed to speak up about the problems with low pay.)

Berger said changes in the Read to Achieve Act also show that GOP leaders have been listening and learning.   He said the revisions approved Wednesday preserve the focus on getting third-graders up to grade level in reading while responding to legitimate concerns,  such as the previous lack of flexibility in setting up summer reading programs.  "We listened to those concerns,"  Berger said.

Grundy at General Assembly
It looks like a lively summer debate is just getting cranked up.  Pamela Grundy of Mecklenburg ACTS went to Raleigh to argue against the part of Read to Achieve that requires retention for struggling third-grade readers,  which she says does little to help them.  "Berger's response: not retaining students isn't working, so they have to try something else. The measure passed, but at least the truth made an appearance,"  Grundy posted on Facebook.

And state Superintendent June Atkinson,  a Democrat,  released a statement lauding a  "long overdue"  major raise for teachers,  but saying that the Senate's education budget  "continues to undercut support for teachers and for learning."

"The key to teacher recruitment and retention is pay plus working conditions,"  Atkinson said.  "Student success requires both."

Update:  A Winthrop professor just tweeted me a link to this blog post berating N.C. legislators for offering the "raises or tenure" tradeoff.  "Curmudgucation,"  by a self-described grumpy old teacher,  says the real message is that teachers can't make a career here and that North Carolina now has  "the worst legislature in all of America."


Wiley Coyote said...

Atkinson needs to get her head on straight.

The key to student success begins at home and not with teacher recruitment and working conditions.

Pamela Grundy said...

Just to back up my statement that retention-focused programs like this doesn't work, there's an excellent, research-based discussion of that issue, "Holding Kids Back Doesn't Help Them," at Even Berger didn't actually claim that retention helped.

We have more information on Read to Achieve in our RTA section of the website:

Pamela Grundy said...

That would be "programs like this don't work,"of course.

(Ann, you have permission to fix, rather than to add this post, if you prefer).

Anonymous said...

Pamela, if there's a way to edit comments, I don't know it. Probably a good thing -- can you imagine the conspiracy theories if I could alter comments?

Unknown said...

What about the rest of state employees. The state troopers and correctional officers that put their life on the line every day in the line of duty. They haven't seen a raise since 2008 and are amongst the lowest paid in the country.

Anonymous said...

It would make more sense if CMS were slated to lose all of the state money that is being cut in the "central office."

gwalkerruns said...

The 11 percent figure might be accurate or the new teachers but overrstated for others. The only guarantee for veterans giving up tenure is 1000 per year. They must be part of the 25% chosen by whomever to receive a higher raise. Since longevity is larger than 1000 for most veterans it would be a net decrease. A hidden part of the legislation states if the tenure part of the deal is challenged in court all raises will be rescinded. It gets worse. Another section states that in the future the state may erase the pay increases if deemed necessaty. This needs to be pointed out by the media.

Anonymous said...

With education responsibilities now being focused on technology and using more and more technology at school on a daily basis (individual learning modules via computers), our teachers will have less influence in the classroom. Pay will not be an issue anymore.

Unknown said...


Is it really over?

The County Manager has it spot-on in her comments about funding CMS. Raleigh, with the help of our House Representative from Matthews, wants to shift the financial burden of K12 from the state capital to the County seat.

That means if even the Godzilla Great Recession doesn't return, its evil twin, the General Assembly, is going to make the cost of education as financially painful as possible for local governments.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

Atkinson and Morrison are both weak patsies who talk out of both sides of their mouths. NO ONE is supporting the teachers. NO ONE! If the 11% is there, why are they not raising salaries of everyone now- without conditions?! The message is - do what we say or stay poor. You haven't earned it. Dear God when will this nightmare end?

Anonymous said...

Two issues with Senate pay plan--if CMS loses 77 teachers while gaining students (which is pretty much a given) by definition some class sizes are going to increase again (and I wonder where those classes will be located).
Secondly, these teacher and TA cuts are being made to raise pay level to 27th in the nation. But do the rankings take in to account cost of living in various states? Where is NC on cost of living ranking? I suspect that our cost of living is much lower than that in the northeast or on the west coast. We hear about northerners coming here and marveling at the house they can get for the money, so do we need to be at 27th to really be competitive? I don't know the answer, just asking.
And one other thing--why is there not more being cut from central office? Having dealt with some of the people down there and the layers of bureaucracy I don't think it would be all that difficult to come up with more savings from that source. More cuts would probably do the system a big favor.

Anonymous said...

...and the GA says, "Oh, you want a raise, we'll give you a raise, but give up your due process rights first!"
Reminds me of, "You want ice cream for dessert, eat your peas first."
Disgraceful (and I voted for them). I just don't know what they have against the rank and file teachers. I just don't get it.

Anonymous said...

The main purpose of schools is to educate kids, not give teachers jobs. Yes they need to paid appropriately...but what a huge amount of time and energy is being spent on this issue that should be focused on the kids.

Unknown said...


In the spring of 2006 I learned that CMS had no good way of predicting the locations of students in the next school year. There was, and still are, a lot of families moving within the district year to year.

One particularly bright administrator came-up with the idea of asking Duke Energy about power usage. This helped a lot in looking at families who rent.

As early as 2004, the CMS Equity Committee had proven that all the net gains in student population were coming from below the poverty line. This trend continues.

These are important discussions if there is a loss of teachers and TAs. Where will the teachers be needed? What kind of teachers are required? All of this is at the mercy of where families live year to year.

Why is this relevant to the loss of 77 teachers? It has to do with robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Peter lives in south Charlotte. Paul stays in an urban district.

South Charlotte is academically stable. Parents seem to be providing afterschool support for their children. CMS will increase classroom size there and send teachers northwards; but not too far north.

This is a double whammy for southern Mecklenburg. Its student population, unaffected by the phenomenon of low wealth, is growing with little hope of more teachers. It will be schools like Providence Spring ES, which has the tightest most intact teacher core, that might keep south Charlotte schools clicking on all cylinders.

My prediction. No urban school will see a loss of teachers. Also, there are schools on the fringes of district 1, 5 and 6 that need the same attention as the urban districts. I wonder if boundary changes aren’t coming.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

I am on the fence with the tenure situation. If you are a bad/ineffective teacher, you should not be protected. But here is my concern, who decides whether or not a teacher is effective? People should be held accoutanble, however with teachers, there are so many variables involved in the equation and that is my concern.

With regards to Read to Achieve, when I first heard about it, I was an avid supporter, but after experiencing the concept with my third grade child, my opinion has changed. First of all, I don't care for all of the pressure being on the Reading portion of the EOG, it's been brutal, secondly, the rollout was terrible. I will give my local state reps credit for being honest, they admitted they did not fully understand the scope or the impact of Read to Achieve when they signed it into law.

Anonymous said...

Heath Morrison says he's an unaffiliated voter, but his public comments make it clear that he's a Democrat. He supports the liberal tradition of increased pay and benefits for teachers, while not proposing any changes to the outdated teacher pay system and tenure system.

Morrison typically pays lip service to pay and tenure reform some day. But he always says we have to pay teachers more now and implies that maybe a few years from now we can think about reform. In other words, the county can reform pay and tenure after he leaves his job with CMS.

Anonymous said...

This is the same politics as last year. Now, the courts have struck down the 25% rule so this is the legislator's comeback. Just like they made it seem as if teachers were really getting a 3% raise last year by confusing the public by making teaching appear like a private sector job. Most people don't realize I make less with the "raise" than I would have if the salary schedule would have simply continued. What people do NOT understand is that most teachers are advocates for your children and are frequently "whistleblowers" when things are not being handled properly at the school level. For example, to make sure some of our seniors graduate, our principal is holding a "recovery time" this weekend for excessive absences. Apparently this time will be used to watch movies. Tenure (due process) is the ONLY THING that allows teachers a voice against the shady tactics some use. If I can simply be fired by my administration, you might as well just have administrators assign grades to students and forget the teachers altogether.

Pamela Grundy said...

The rollout of Read to Achieve was indeed terrible. However, Florida has had the program for more than a decade, and it is still riddled with problems (see for example, this recent Orlando-based blog post:

The problem is that the legislation is fundamentally flawed.

The first flaw is the decision to mandate retention, which has been conclusively shown to do more harm than good in most cases.

The second is the decision to stake something as important as retention on a standardized test, a strategy that inevitably raises stress levels and prompts teaching to the test.

The program also intervenes far too late – children who face reading challenges need intensive work far earlier in their school careers.

The Senate made some useful tweaks, but a far more significant overhaul is needed for it to become a program that does not harm children while trying to help them. Parents need to keep the pressure on.

Wiley Coyote said...

Parents need to "keep the pressure on"....what?

CMS? Politicians?

Why aren't these parents spending all that energy helping their kids to read before they get to the third grade?

To say they need all this help prior to the third grade proves the point that having pre-k doesn't move the needle any farther than those who don't go to pre-k.

The most recent comprehensive study from the Clinton and Bush through Obama administrations on Head Start:

There is no measurable advantage to children in elementary school of having participated in Head Start. Further, children attending Head Start remain far behind academically once they are in elementary school. Head Start does not improve the school readiness of children from low-income families.

This has been going on since the mid-60's and presently at a cost of $8 BILLION DOLLARS.

Parents need to put pressure on other parents/guardians/grandparents to ensure their offspring are ready for school. Otherwise, stop having kids.

Anonymous said...

Why even be a teacher. Let the STATE figure out how to educate the STATE.

It's too funny how WHITES voted against President Obama, and now you have a Republican controlled house and Governor and NC is doing horrible.

How is the GOP Change working for you.

No Jobs, Don't have unemployment benefits, and no good education.

Just like SC, NC is GOP proud.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday, I wrote my local state rep and gave her my opinion based upon our experience this year. As I stated, I was a supporter of Read to Achieve, but after my experience, my opinion has changed.

I found some of the standards to be too difficult for a 3rd grade child. There are 12 different standards the child must meet in order to pass RTA. I also felt that in some cases, one had to actually figure out the questions in order to find the answers in the reading passages within the reading portfolio.

Basically both my wife and I are thrilled 3rd grade is just about over, this has not been a pleasant experience.

Pamela Grundy said...

I was referring to the need to keep pressure on the General Assembly to do something about test-based retention.

Anonymous said...

South Carolina does not have this issue. The teacher pay in NC is a joke. The problem with NC is NC. You have huge county schools. The educates in far off offices stepping all over teachers. You have mad men in Raleigh that can't agree. The house of representatives still hasn't thrown their two cents in yet. I do not believe NC should recruit any teachers until this is figured out. It would be wrong to bring in a young college grad or a person with a family. The state is still showing the old pay scale on their web page. Tenure is not even an issue in NC. The principal's are not complaining about it. I am a Republican. This is not a Republican issue. This is crazy people doing crazy things. I don't know one Republican, that doesn't think teachers should get a significant raise. If you want to get rid of tenure, then make it a law for new teachers. Why is this so complicated. I can't find one state in the union having theses issues. NC is only hurting themselves. This is bad for recruiting teachers and business. NC has always been seen nationally as having good education for a southern state. We are know being compared to Mississippi. All this in fighting and blaming is bad. Bad for all of us. Bump teachers pay, break up the mega districts and put schools under local control. Make all parties personally responsible. Parents, administration and teachers. That is Republican ideals. I don't know what's going on in NC?

Anonymous said...

@ 3:31

My thoughts, exactly. Without due process (not "tenure"), administration can easily get rid of any teacher that blows the whistle on questionable or unethical decisions. What would possibly prevent them from doing so?

Many administrators ALREADY retaliate against trouble-makers, docking their classroom ratings so as to force them to jump through paperwork hoops such as "performance counseling". If they could simply push any trouble-maker out the door? Forget it.

The quality of administrators in CMS is horrendous. Parents complain about them constantly. Imagine if they had even more power than they already do-- because that is EXACTLY what will result from getting rid of due process for teachers.

Anonymous said...

5:32 has hit one nail on the head with his or her comment about "huge county schools (I assume you mean systems)". As a result of these huge districts there is way too much bureaucracy, both locally and statewide.

Anonymous said...

Yes, system's or Districts. I looked at Mcory's plan, it's ok but 2018 is too far away. 10 years of frozen pay is too long. This state needs a plan now.

Anonymous said...

I am starting to think that making teaching a dead end job in NC is planned. It's not necessarily a Republican or Democrats plan. I don't really see a difference in education plans between parties. I think it's the powers too be plan.. Like Jeb Bush and Obama. They have the same idea's and plan's.

Anonymous said...

What about the BENEFITS PACKAGE ?

Loss of 80/20
Loss of Vision
Loss of Dental

Why doesnt anyone ever talk about this? This has been thousands of dollars lost by teachers.