The state and local budget processes are in their final stages, and there’s a great deal at stake on their final versions.
Locally, there’s concern that over the difference between what the schools are requesting and what the county is offering. At the state level teachers are awaiting word on what type of raise they might see when they return for the next school year.
Wake County and WCPSS
WCPSS presented the County Commission with a budget that requests $35.7 million in new spending to cover the costs of opening five new schools and to pay for any state-mandated increases. County Manager Jim Hartmann has proposed increasing local spending by $23.9 million. The $11.8 million difference is only one percent of the county manager’s proposed budget.
WakeEd supports the full increase the schools are requesting this year because about 75 percent of the increase is covering costs beyond the district’s control. Opening new schools is a necessary expense in a county growing as quickly as Wake is. The other 25 percent of the increase is going toward continuing or expanding programs with academic significance.
The Senate released a bold plan to overhaul the teacher compensation schedule over two years. Although this doesn’t actually increase the top or bottom salaries of teachers, it will put more money into teachers’ pockets at a faster rate than the current format.
Under the Senate’s plan, the teacher pay scale would be condensed from 25 years so that teachers will reach the top of the scale in 15 years. This format would be phased in over two years, and first year teachers would still make $35,000 while a 15-year teacher would make $50,000, both before any local supplements or without National Board certification.
This is a good first step because it doesn’t take teachers a quarter of a century to reach the top of their effectiveness, and it shouldn’t take them that long to reach the top of their income. However, annual bills which make piecemeal changes to teacher compensation are not good policy, and the focus on where North Carolina teachers fall on the national average scale is not a good measure of adequate compensation.
The House was more progressive in its attempt to provide incentives for highly effective teachers by adding a bonus for teachers whose students pass Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams; allowing National Board certified teachers who leave the classroom to become school-based instructional coaches to earn the 12% increase for their certification; and by creating a three-year pilot program to pay teachers for “advanced teaching roles”.
Teachers are clear in survey after survey that they do not want their base salaries subject to student outcomes, but they do support performance bonuses and experience differentials. Although this is more piecemeal, it is another good step. Rewarding effective teachers and differentiating pay in this way honors teacher professionalism.
The House and Senate disagree on raises for school-based administrators such as principals and assistant principals. The House proposes a two percent increase across the board, with bonuses for school-based administrators who don’t qualify for a raise. The Senate proposes no pay increase, but is offering a bonus structure.
Where they do agree is on creating a commission to study the compensation structure of school-based administrators. This is very necessary. NC school-based administrators are 50th in the nation in average pay, and like teachers they need a pay increase. The commission will, hopefully, ensure that a comprehensive salary structure will be adopted instead of using arbitrary numbers to move principal and assistant principal pay up the national average ladder.
When it comes to school grading, the House is moving in the right direction. While school grades are an incomplete, and often incorrect, evaluation of a school’s value-add, it looks like they are here to stay. It’s worth trying to find and validate a formula that will properly demonstrate the effectiveness of a school.
The House budget proposes keeping the 15-point scale between letter grades and adjusts the score formula so that averages are based on a 50-50 weight of student achievement and academic growth. This action will lead to a more balanced evaluation of student performance at a given school.
A joint conference committee is working out the differences between the two budgets with hopes of having a final bill on the governor\’s desk by early July.