2/26/14 Task force on teacher pay incentives begins

Task force on teacher pay in N.C. begins
The Associated Press, The Times-News 2/26/14  
Reprinted with permission.      

   RALEIGH — Despite teachers’ concerns about its implementation, North Carolina public school educator pay raises ultimately will shift toward rewarding individual performance, a key state lawmaker predicted Tuesday.

   The comments by Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, an education budget-writer, came at the first meeting of a task force considering how to identify and reward effective educators. The panel of General Assembly members, teachers group leaders, education experts and parents is supposed to make recommendations to the Legislature by mid-April.

   Legislative leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory have pledged to pass a law when lawmakers reconvene in May that will raise the salaries of the newest teachers to $35,000 in two phases by fall 2015. McCrory and other Republicans have insisted more pay raises are ahead for more experienced teachers when revenues are available.

   From then on, however, “large across-the-board and step increases are probably not going to happen,” task force co-chairman Tillman told the rest of the panel.

   “But there’ll be many incentives in there for contributing to the goals of your school, to being a good team member. ... But the most important is what are you doing with the kids you’re teaching,” he added.

   Salaries for teachers, principals and instructional staff are now based on years of experience, advanced degrees or certifications and, for administrators, the size of the school. For example, a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 11 years of experience receives a base salary of $37,110. That doesn’t count longevity pay and supplements from local districts, which can add thousands of dollars annually.

   Finding a better way to link teacher and administrator performance to salaries has been a hot topic since Republicans took over the Legislature in 2011. Teachers in an entire school used to get annual bonuses based on cumulative standardized test scores, but those ABCs of Public Education payments ended several years ago.

   The GOP-led Legislature passed a law last year offering bonuses starting this fall to those who are deemed the 25 percent most effective teachers in a district in exchange for their giving up job-protecting tenure status. Supporters have labeled the change a way to reward the best classroom educators during the period while tenure is phased out by 2018. The law is being challenged in court.