Efforts To Increase Teacher Pay Stalled in North Carolina

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Despite broad support for increased teacher salaries among North Carolina's government officials and business community, efforts to enact the first pay raise since 1982 have stalled in the legislature.

With only two weeks remaining in the session, neither chamber as of last week had come up with a proposal to finance the raise. And lawmakers had not acted on a measure to expand the state's pilot "career development" program, which offers teachers additional raises based on performance evaluations.

In recent weeks, several education groups have offered various teacher-salary proposals.

Last month, the House public-employees committee approved the least expensive plan, which would raise the average teacher salary by about 6 percent, at a cost of about $680 million. The 30-step salary scale was advanced by the Public School Forum of North Carolina, a coalition of state and local officials and business leaders.

Last week, the House education-appropriations committee approved a separate proposal that would freeze the basic-education program for a year to free up $112 million for salary raises.

Gov. James G. Martin, the North Carolina Association of Educators, Superintendent of Public Instruction Bobby Etheridge, and the state board of education have all offered additional teacher-pay plans. They would raise salaries in a range from about 8 percent to 10 percent, and their cost would range from $694 million to $1.4 billion.

The Governor has proposed a 1-cent sales-tax hike to finance his8teacher-pay plan, and legislators have proposed other measures ranging from changing the state income-tax structure to drawing on an anticipated $159 million windfall from captial-gains taxes resulting from the r.j.r. Nabisco sale.

Lieut. Gov. James C. Gardner and 40 Republican legislators last month endorsed Governor Martin's sales-tax proposal, but only on the condition that the legislature make the career-development program mandatory statewide.

The program has been in operation at 16 sites and is in its fourth and final year as a pilot venture. It has come under increasing criticism from the n.c.a.e., whose survey on the subject this year showed many members not supporting the idea.

Last month, however, Mr. Gardner released data from a teacher survey he conducted showing that 70.6 percent of the respondents would accept a teacher-evaluation system "once problems in the process are worked out and the salary schedule is corrected."

The teacher-association's president, Karen Garr, maintained last week, however, that Mr. Gardner's survey "showed the same as ours--that by a 2-to-1 margin, teachers said the career-ladder has serious problems."

Governor Martin favors statewide implementation, said Lee Monroe, his education adviser, but would support a plan giving school districts the option of devising their own career-ladder programs, if the legislature backs his sales-tax proposal. The Governor is "trying to be conciliatory,"4Mr. Monroe said.

But Ms. Garr noted that "unless more revenue is found, there will be no money for anything."

"Neither the House nor the Senate wants to bite the bullet to come up with additional revenue," Mr. Monroe conceded.

As a result of the six-year salary freeze, Ms. Garr said, the state has slipped eight notches in its national ranking on teacher pay--falling to 36th place last year.

A federal mandate to reform its prisons and a tax structure that has remained virtually unchanged since the 1930's, she said, have left the state strapped for funds.

Observers add that a shift in the leadership of the House and the addition of a new Republican lieutenant governor have had an impact on legislative progress.

"A lot of time has been spent on figuring out new processes and chains of command," Ms. Garr said.--dc

Vol. 08, Issue 39

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