Tillman talks teacher pay increase

Nov. 18, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

State Sen. Jerry Tillman is taking steps to change the teacher salary schedule that he hopes will encourage young teachers to stay in North Carolina.
Tillman, R-Randolph, said he wants to keep young teacher talent in North Carolina, and his idea to do that is to reform the salary schedule to allow new teachers to make more money.
“Teacher salary has been frozen for years,” Tillman said. “A first-year teacher and a fifth-year teacher make the same thing. We want to find the money to put into those first-year teachers to attract better teachers and to get people into the field.”
According to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, bachelor’s degree-certified teachers with zero to five years of experience get paid $30,800. But teacher pay was frozen during the economic downturn. That means a teacher who had five years of experience in 2009 is still making $30,800 today, even though that teacher now has 10 years of experience, which would normally would earn $35,800.
Tillman said he and a committee are at the planning stage of the idea, but he hopes to start taking the initial steps during the short session in the spring.
The issue now, Tillman said, is how to pay for the plan. He did not have a specific amount, but said it will cost several hundred million dollars.
“We’re beginning to run a surplus, so we’re beginning to build reserves,” Tillman said. “Hopefully, we’ll be shifting some money from there, but because of the amount of money we need for this, we have to do it in many ways.”
Cassandra Flemming, a fifth-year teacher at Ferndale Middle School, said this idea will not solve the problems.
“It’s great for recruitment, but what about teacher retention?” she said. “The legislators need to remember the teachers who have remained in the classroom in spite of increased class sizes and less resources.”
Tillman said changing the salary schedule could be the first step to getting and keeping quality teachers in the state.
“Our starting salary is so low that they’re going other places,” Tillman said. “We’ve got to keep them in North Carolina.”
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