Educators dismayed by final teacher pay proposal lawmakers asked them to help develop

By: - April 14, 2014 6:32 pm

To the surprise of some of its own members, a legislative task force studying alternative ways to compensate teachers in the state put forth a report today asking the General Assembly to consider a short-term goal of significantly increasing the salaries of entering teachers and those teachers who are most likely to leave–which would be teachers with less than ten years of experience.

That recommendation mirrors Gov. Pat McCrory’s recent teacher pay proposal that would reward only beginning teachers in the state with significant pay raises, bringing their salaries up from $30,800 to $35,000 by 2015.

But task force members who were not lawmakers — teachers, principals, and other education stakeholders – were taken aback  by the report that bears their names, indicating their feedback wasn’t taken into account during the report’s development.

“Why were we brought here? I don’t sense the education professionals on this panel had much input in the report,” said Timothy Barnsback, President of the Professional Educators of North Carolina (PENC).

The Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force, which comprises lawmakers, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders, is charged with making recommendations to the legislature about statewide teacher pay models that would attract and retain highly effective teachers and could include merit pay and/or incentive pay for teachers to move to hard to staff schools.

Teacher compensation proposals should also take into account methods for identifying effective teaching, including students’ performance on standardized tests.

Rep. Rob Bryan, co-chair of the task force, said that every effort was made to incorporate the feedback of all task force committee members.

“That’s not true,” Barnsback later told N.C. Policy Watch after the hearing. “There was specific feedback given by several members of this committee that I do not see in this report.”

“I too am struggling with the process,” said task force member Ellen McIntyre, Dean of Education at UNC – Charlotte. “I really thought today was going to be a debate. But I want to know what will happen one hour from now. Is [the task force] over? Let’s get more specific and figure out in the next hour what we really are going to recommend,” said McIntyre.

“I don’t want to send something forward that is milk toast,” added McIntyre.

A long-term goal of increasing salaries for all teachers while modernizing the state’s teacher compensation system to more closely align compensation with student outcomes and educator responsibilities was also included in the recommendations.

“That’s just a bunch of fluff,” said task force member Rep. Tricia Cotham (D-?) about the committee’s report, expressing her disappointment with the recommendations put forth today.

“This is a disappointing report and it’s gonna be real hard to sell,” said Cotham. “It’s hard to sell to teachers who are cleaning pools…and babysitting other kids right now…to make ends meet. There’s no plan for the teachers who are left out,” said Cotham.

Task force member Judy Kidd, president of the Classroom Teachers Association based in Charlotte, spoke forcefully to lawmakers.

“Career teachers in North Carolina are long past the carrot and the stick,” said Kidd. “We need to increase the pay of teachers in the state of North Carolina. Period.”

Rep. Craig Horn, who also sits on the task force, expressed his frustration.

“Frankly I’m disappointed we didn’t make a lot more progress and didn’t have more specificty in the recommendations,” said Horn, who asked that leadership extend the life of the task force.

In addition to the report, the task force put forward draft legislation that would direct the State Board of Education to study teacher compensation models that rely on students’ performance on standardized tests as well as staffing classrooms with more paraprofessionals who would work under the supervision of master teachers.

Co-chairs Bryan and Sen. Jerry Tillman tried to ease task force members’ concerns by indicating that as they moved the draft bill forward, which contains some of the report’s recommendations, they’d also take further feedback into consideration.

“We never intended to forget them,” said Sen. Tillman about paying experienced teachers more, in addition to beginning teachers.

The task force voted to adopt the report, with the dissenting nays coming largely from members who were part of the education community.

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Lindsay Wagner

Lindsay Wagner, former Education Reporter for N.C. Policy Watch. Wagner now works as a Senior Writer and Researcher at the NC Public School Forum. She has also worked for the American Federation of Teachers in Washington, D.C., as a writer and researcher focusing on higher education issues and for the National Education Association, the U.S. Department of State's Fulbright program and the Brookings Institution and an Education Specialist at the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. [email protected]