Last updated: April 15. 2014 8:01AM - 776 Views
By - mmurphy@civitasmedia.com

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LAURINBURG — A set of recommendations forwarded Monday to the General Assembly by the 18-member Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force included, in the short term, increasing salaries for inexperienced teachers. The report, expected to come into play during the legislative short session set to convene on May 14, identified teacher raises across the board as a long-term goal.

Comprising legislators, teachers, school board members and school administrators, the task force was formed by the General Assembly a year ago to research whether a statewide model of incentives and an “alternative compensation system” would help school systems to recruit and retain “effective educators.”

The report offered almost a dozen findings and four goals, which included raising early-career teacher salaries significantly in the short term and all teacher pay in the long term while modernizing the compensation system. The task force also asked the legislature to pass a law telling the State Board of Education to come up with a detailed compensation system proposal by next March 15.

“I think what you see in our final report is largely a set of goals and principles to be applied, as a specific plan is created,” said a co-chairman, Rep. Rob Bryan, R-Mecklenburg.

North Carolina’s teachers have not received a significant pay raise in six years, and the state currently ranks among the lowest in the nation where teacher pay is concerned. Last year, the General Assembly approved discontinuance of bonus pay for advanced degrees.

The General Assembly also approved the elimination of teacher tenure by 2018, passing a law directing school districts to identify the top one-fourth of their teaching force and offering those teachers the option of giving up tenure early in exchange for a $500 pay increase for each of the next four years.

“There are some people in our legislature who are not pleased at all with that,” said Charles Brown, chairman of the Scotland County Board of Education. “They’re calling it discriminatory and unfair.”

That plan now has school systems statewide on hold, as Gov. Pat McCrory is in the process of reevaluating the law and school administrators have been instructed by the state Department of Public Instruction not to move forward with offering the deal.

In December, the school board approved the method of determining the 85 system teachers to be offered contracts and bonuses in lieu of their tenure, based on evaluations performed by school principals. No offers had yet been extended to individual teachers.

“It’s divisive — it’s trying to say one teacher is better than another and I totally disagree with that,” Brown said. “I’m glad some people with sense said to put that on hold.”

The state task force met three times before releasing its report, which notes that a pay scale indexing compensation to years of experience “does not align to the majority of current research on the impact of teacher experience on student outcomes.”

The report also said that state-centered compensation models rarely have a positive effect on student achievement.

“Reform models that emphasize local flexibility within evidence-based parameters may be a more promising and sustainable strategy,” the report reads.

Some teachers serving on the panel complained that leaders failed to take their input or give them enough time to offer it. The panel met four times over less than two months, with educators and experts telling members about what’s working and what’s not in North Caroilna school districts and in other states.

“I’m struggling with why we were brought here,” said Timothy Barnsback, president of the Professional Educators of North Carolina and a Burke County middle school teacher. “We’ve heard a lot of presentations and propaganda but there really hasn’t been a whole lot of meaningful discussion going forward.”

Former high school teacher Rep. Tricia Cotham, D-Mecklenburg, called the report’s contents “fluff.” She said veteran teachers, who have received one raise since 2008, are working second jobs during breaks to make ends meet.

In the short term, the task force advised a “significant increase” in salary for teachers most likely to leave the profession, namely those with less than 10 years of experience. That recommendation, according to state Rep. Garland Pierce of Wagram, is consistent with the governor’s expressed desire to attract new teachers to North Carolina schools — and to keep them here.

“I think the governor’s really going to push that hard in the short session, to get beginning teachers to $35,000,” Pierce said. “His intent is to attract younger teachers and keep them around at that pay range.”

Though many career teachers are leaving the profession due to retirement, that approach has left many with low morale.

“A lot of veteran teachers are upset that a new teacher can come in and make as much money as a seventh or eighth year teacher,” Pierce said. “It’s splitting the education community.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 17. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.

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