RALEIGH – “The state of North Carolina cannot function without a strong, motivated workforce,” Gov. Pat McCrory said as he presented his proposed 2016-17 budget to state legislators last week.1
If that’s the case, the governor and legislators need to do better by the state’s university and community college faculty than the one-time 3% bonus McCrory recommends for them.
The governor deserves credit for some of his education proposals – an average 5% raise for K-12 teachers, bringing average teacher pay in North Carolina to $50,000; plus a 3.5% bonus for teachers, with $5,000 for teachers with at least 25 years’ experience.
He offers $2 million for scholarships for 300 prospective math and science teachers, and $5 million for merit scholarships for students pursuing science, math and health degrees.
His proposal also includes $33 million to provide for 3,125 additional university students and $8 million to stabilize the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. It includes $16.7 million for support services to help community college students leave with a degree or a credential.2
But instructors in the classroom are the heart of any university or community college – they ignite fires of curiosity in their students. And faculty at North Carolina’s public universities have seen a single raise of 1.2% from the General Assembly in the past seven years.
In fact, average faculty salaries at 11 of our 16 public universities now rank below the 50th percentile when compared with their peer institutions. UNC Chapel Hill and NC State would require raises of roughly 6% just to reach the median among their peers.3
The governor’s budget does include $3 million to recruit and retain “exceptional” faculty who receive competing offers.
But instead of a real raise, he offers university and community college faculty a fleeting, one-time gift. His proposal makes it clear the bonus would not increase base pay or the salary used to compute retirement benefits.4
University System President Margaret Spellings told legislators this week that pay for faculty and staff is her top priority for the legislature this year.
“On every campus visit, this challenge comes to the fore: We can’t attract and keep world-class talent if we don’t offer competitive pay,” Spellings said.
Raises for K-12 teachers are desperately needed – the University System is the leading supplier of teachers in North Carolina. (And this week happens to be National
Teacher Appreciation Week.)
But we need to reward the people who teach our kids at every level.
1 https://ncosbm.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/documents/files/BudgetBook_2016-17_2.pdf, Governor’s Transmittal Letter, p. 3.
2 https://ncosbm.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/documents/files/BudgetBook_2016-17_2.pdf, pp. 42-49.
3 http://www.northcarolina.edu/apps/bog/index.php?mode=browse_premeeting&mid=5630&code=bog, 2016-17 Budget Priorities, p. 26.
4 https://ncosbm.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/documents/files/BudgetBook_2016-17_2.pdf, p. 49-50.