RALEIGH: NC House seeks average 5 percent teacher raises - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

NC House seeks average 5 percent teacher raises

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Speaker Thom Tillis presents the House's proposed budget, which includes 5 percent raises for teachers. Speaker Thom Tillis presents the House's proposed budget, which includes 5 percent raises for teachers.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

The North Carolina House presented a budget Tuesday that would give public school teachers an average 5 percent raise without having to give up job protections as laid out in the Senate budget.

The Republican leadership announced the plan at a news conference Tuesday morning.

The $21.09 billion spending plan also keeps giving local school districts money to hire teaching assistants in kindergarten through 3rd grade.

Rep. Nelson Dollar said the proposal has been made possible by a North Carolina economy that is on the upswing.

"There's been an improving fiscal picture since 2011," Dollar said.

The Senate proposal approved late last month cut the amount designated for teaching assistants almost in half to help pay for pay raises that average more than 11 percent. But the Senate required veteran teachers to agree to end their tenured status to receive the higher salaries.

The House would seek to locate more funds for salaries and other needs through a jump in lottery profits spurred on in part by raising the cap on advertising expenses from 1 percent of overall lottery sales to 2 percent, the AP reported.

"There are calculation that come from the lottery. We had brought those in to our committee a couple of times to meet with the chairs and talk about what the lottery could do to produce more for education in the state," Dollar explained. "What we asked them to do was to view this. They're experts at this; they've been running that lottery for the better part of a decade now -- they work the numbers."

The North Carolina Association of Educators, however, is skeptical of relying on lottery sales.

"I guess they would intend to push more people into purchasing more lottery," said Mark Jewell, vice president of NCAE. "But we don't know how sustainable that is."

Democrats were also skeptical, saying relying on the lottery is a gamble the state can't afford.

"You're going to base it apparently from increased proceeds from the lottery at a time when our job picture is stagnant? I'm not sure that's wise; it really looks like a gamble," said Rep. Larry Hall (D-Durham).

The House budget would be more in line with Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's spending plan on the public schools by funding his pilot program to determine how best to reward teachers considered the most effective or have additional duties, the documents say. The Senate did not contain the Career Pathways initiative.

All three proposals follow through on raising the salary floor for new teachers to $33,000 annually.

In reviewing the proposed budget, McCrory stayed neutral on the intricacies and instead issued a statement saying he looks forward to working with both the House and Senate on the state budget.

"I will continue to support a budget plan that provides sustainable raises for teachers and state employees, protects teacher assistants, protects master's pay, provides career pathways for teachers, and funds core services for the needy and disabled," McCrory said. "I'd like to thank Speaker Tillis and other members of House leadership for listening on these important issues. I look forward to working with the House and Senate to build on the strengths of both plans."

The House budget also allocates $18.7 million to restore a supplement for teachers who have a master's degree.

House Speaker Thom Tillis said House and Senate leaders will be able to work out their differences.

"I think next week's conference with the Senate will go relatively smoothly," Tillis said.

Tillis said the General Assembly is looking to move quickly so that local governments would be clear on their budgets.

Other rank-and-file state employees also would get flat $1,000 salary increases in the House budget - slightly higher than what McCrory and the Senate offered - in the House plan, which is likely to clear the chamber by Friday. The House and Senate will then work out a final proposal to adjust the second year of the two-year budget approved last summer and give it to McCrory to seek his signature. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

On Medicaid reform, the House proposal steers clear of the Senate's demand that McCrory's administration stop working on a cost-saving initiative that Senate Republicans argue is unworkable and fails to achieve enough savings. The House also declines to trim back the Medicaid eligibility rolls by up to 15,000 people, as the Senate proposed.

Other highlights of the House proposal:

  • $117 million in risk reserve for Medicaid
  • An extra $3.6 million for the N.C. Biotech Center
  • Additional $9 million for Pre-K
  • Funds three positions in the State Board of elections to investigate election fraud
  • Repeals tolls and prohibits future tolling of the N.C. Ferry System.

The House proposal agrees with the Senate on moving the State Bureau of Investigation from Attorney General Roy Cooper's office to the Department of Public Safety, a Cabinet-level agency run by McCrory. But the State Crime Lab would remain under Cooper. The Senate would move the lab to the department.

The House would find money to expand the number of children to participate in the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten program, increase funding for child protective services and the state medical examiner's office. All current and future ferry tolling also would be repealed and replaced with a new method to fund capital improvements.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Beau Minnick

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