North Carolina Gov. Cooper said Monday teacher pay was among the issues prolonging state budget negotiations.
Nearly five months into the new fiscal year, North Carolina lawmakers have not agreed on how the state will spend $50 billion over the current and following fiscal year.
“We’re the last state in the country without a budget, and I know that you guys are just as frustrated as you can possibly be,” Cooper told a panel of educators Monday. “Me, too, but I don’t want a bad budget. I don’t want a budget that hurts education at the end of the day.”
The House and Senate approved separate budget proposals in August, but lawmakers have not voted to approve one final version. Legislative leaders agreed to a compromise budget late last month, and sent it Cooper to review before calling for a final vote. According to The Associated Press, Cooper sent the Legislature back a proposal, to which lawmakers have sent a counteroffer. The proposal that was sent to the governor was not released to the public, nor were subsequent proposals.
Cooper told his teacher advisory committee he asked for a 10% raise for teachers in his proposal and higher pay for teacher assistants and school nurses, psychologists and counselors. The governor believes it will help North Carolina attract and retain more teachers.
Cooper created the Governor’s Teacher Advisory Committee in 2017 to advise him on education issues. The panel includes current and retired teachers and other education professionals.
Bobbie Cavnar, an English teacher at South Point High School on the panel, said the schools in his district are facing severe staffing shortages.
Students at South Point High, in Gaston County, arrive 40 minutes late each day because of the lack of bus drivers, Cavnar said. A shortage in janitors requires teachers to clean their own classrooms. Even the assistant principal has had to chip in and take out the trash at South Point High, Cavnar said. He said Gaston County Schools is need of 60 teachers, but no one has applied.
“We need staff,” Cavnar said. “We need people as quickly as we can get them.”
The budget proposals the Legislature has passed lag behind Cooper’s ask for teacher pay.
Educators would see a 3% pay increase under the current published Senate plan. The published House plan provided 2.5% raises for most state employees, and teachers would see step raises around 5.5%. Other school personnel would receive $13 an hour in pay during the first fiscal year and $15 an hour pay during the second fiscal year under the House plan. The Senate plan provided $13 an hour over the two years. The House also restored advanced degree supplements for the first time.
“I want a better budget that pays attention to everyday families that invest in education and health care, and that’s why I’m still working, working to try to get a better budget,” Cooper said. “If you just give me a little more time to try and get this done, I’m gonna do everything that I can to try and get that done.”