RALEIGH — The N.C. Senate announced this morning that they are planning to raise teacher's annual salaries to an average of $55,000 over the next two years, giving the average teacher a $10,000 pay raise, or 20 percent since the 2013-2014 school year.
"Just one month ago Senate Republicans announced our support for Gov. McCrory's goal to raise average teacher pay to $50,000 on average — and we are proud that this plan not only meets his goal but exceeds it by $5,000," Senate Leader Phil Berger said in a press release.
If the plan is passed as part of the final budget, North Carolina teachers will be the highest compensated in the southeast and the 24th highest in the nation.
"In 2011, when [Republicans] gained majorities in the General Assembly, the pay structure was such that it took 33 years to go from beginning pay to top pay," Berger said in a press conference Wednesday. "What we're doing is we're making that trip a much shorter trip for career people. Under this new proposal teachers will reach the top of the scale after just 15 years in the classroom."
The Senate is expected to release their budget proposal next week, while the Senate Budget Committee reviews the house plan later this afternoon.
When asked how the teacher raises fit into an overall budget framework, Berger explained that recent budget trends give lawmakers much more capacity to tackle these priorities.
"The truth is, the state budget is in better shape than it has been in a very long period of time," Berger said. "Our recurring revenues are strong; our economy is strengthening. The tax reform proposals that have been implemented have resulted in growth in state revenues, and the money is there [for this proposal] on a recurring basis."
During the press conference, Berger also emphasized the significance of the life time impact of such a teacher raise.
"Over the course of their career, if everything else remains stagnant, teachers will receive almost $200,000 in additional pay under this plan."
The Senate Education committee will take up a bill on Wednesday that would cut tuition rates to $500 per semester at five North Carolina universities as part of a college affordability plan. The plan also requires all institutions of higher education in the University of North Carolina system to fix tuition rates for a a degree term, meaning a student would pay the same amount in tuition in their fourth year as they did in their first.