State Teacher Pay Task Force Report Draws Criticism From Educators

The final report issued by a state task force charged with tackling issues related teacher pay is drawing criticism for lacking specificity and failing to produce any tangible solutions.

In the last meeting Monday of the Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force, state leaders outlined observations and recommendations for improving the current condition of teachers’ pay in North Carolina.

The most assertive action the report recommended was setting a “short-term goal” of increasing salaries for teachers with less than 10 years of experience—i.e. beginning teachers and those who are most inclined to leave the profession in North Carolina.

Governor Pat McCrory already announced in February that it was his intention to increase starting teachers’ salaries.

As “a long-term goal,” the report suggested that the General Assembly institute a pay raise for teachers across the board. State House 50 Representative Graig Meyer, who was in attendance Monday, said he was disappointed that a timeline was not set for achieving either of those objectives.

“There is no reason why we need to wait two or three more years to go ahead and give pay raises to all teachers in the state,” Meyer said.

As far as developing parameters for a new teacher salary compensation model, Meyer, who also serves as the Director of Student Equity and Volunteer Services for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said he thought the report was deficient and unclear.

Lawmakers are considering alternative teacher pay models that could be coupled with strong student performance in the classroom. The state’s current salary schedule bases teacher’s salary increases on their years of experience.

“They had multiple presenters talk to us about different incentive pay plans. The one thing that was clear was that there was no evidence that any of those plans are very good at identifying who are the best teachers, nor what is the best way to compensate those teachers,” Meyer said. ”They are trying to create something for which we have no good model. It doesn’t mean that a good model couldn’t exist, but I don’t see any reason we should push ahead with something that is going to fail.”

In its final recommendation, the document called for the State Board of Education to examine the teacher compensation systems and report back to lawmakers later this year.

“They are kicking the can down the road and are shifting the responsibility over to the state Board of Education, and it is too bad that they are not making the decisions that they need to in order to give teachers a raise,” he said.

Meyer added that he and others who attended the task force meetings felt that the input of education professionals had been left out.

“I was disappointed that this was a task force where educators were actually invited to the table with the General Assembly, but at the end, when the report came out, the educators made it clear that their voices hadn’t been heard. The things that they recommended, the things that they wanted to see in the plan.”

North Carolina’s teachers are among the lowest-paid in the country, ranking 46th, and make less than  instructors in each of the surrounding states.

Poll: Voters Think Duke Energy Should Pay For Coal Ash Clean-Up, Not Customers

A new poll finds that almost 80 percent of North Carolinians think Duke Energy alone should pay for the clean-up efforts from the recent coal ash spill on the Dan River. Earlier this month, the nation’s largest utility decided that its customers would bear the burden through increased rates.

Tom Jensen, of the left-leaning Public Policy Polling in Raleigh, says the numbers also show bipartisan agreement that Duke Energy should pay for the clean-up.

“We find that 81 percent of Independents, 79 percent of Republicans, and 79 percent of Democrats alike think that it isn’t something that should be passed on to customers. It isn’t something that should be passed on to taxpayers,” Jensen says. “They all feel with regard to no party divide at all that it should be Duke Energy’s responsibility to clean this up.”

On February 2, an old stormwater pipe collapsed at Duke Energy’s plant in Eden on the Dan River. It has been estimated that the spill dumped at least 30,000 tons of pollutant into the river, coating approximately 70 miles. Coal ash contains toxic contaminants such as arsenic, mercury and lead.

Governor Pat McCrory, who worked for Duke Energy for more than 30 years, told reporters Monday that his main concern is cleaning up the spill and then finding a long-term solution for the more than 30 coal ash ponds located in North Carolina.

When it comes to how the Republican leader has handled the spill, the poll found a greater partisan divide. Jensen says Republicans think McCrory has done an “all right job,” whereas Democrats think he has done a poor job.

Overall, only 30 percent of voters give him good marks for how he has responded to the spill compared to 44 percent who disapprove. That is worse than his overall approval numbers, Jensen explains. Forty-seven percent of voters disapprove of the job McCrory is doing, compared to forty percent of who voters approve.

“And I definitely think that what your are seeing there with the coal ash numbers being worse than his overall numbers is some feeling that maybe he is not being tough with Duke Energy. I certainly think that a part of that could be his former employment there.”

Jensen says that not surprisingly, the coal ash spill has had a negative impact on Duke Energy’s image.

“Only 26 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of the company [compared to] 52 percent with an unfavorable opinion,” he says.

To see the full results of the poll, which was conducted between March 6-9, click here.

Gov. McCrory Announces Raise For Incoming Teachers

JAMESTOWN, NC – Governor Pat McCrory and other state leaders announced a plan Monday morning to increase starting teachers’ salaries nearly 14 percent in the next two years, but no immediate increase was mentioned for teaching professionals already in place.

This year, starting teacher pay will increase $2,200 to $33,000; next year an additional $2,000 will be added taking salaries to $35,000.

Supplemental pay for teachers who completed their coursework for their Master’s degrees has been extended up until July 1, 2013 as well.

However, there was no discussion of raising teachers’ salaries for those who are just getting their start.

The announcement to raise incoming teachers’ salaries $4,200 in the next two years was made at Gov. McCrory’s former high school, Ragsdale, with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Senate Leader Phil Berger, and House Speaker Thom Tillis in attendance.

McCrory’s Approval Ratings Drop After Three-Month Improvement

CHAPEL HILL - After hitting a low point in September, N.C. Governor Pat McCrory’s approval rating began to improve.  But, according to a new poll, after three months of improvement, his numbers are down this month.

“We have found that for three months in a row going back to September that McCrory’s approval numbers have been improving, but this month they took a step back from a 42 percent approval in last month to a 37 percent approval rating,” says Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling in Raleigh.

Jensen says that McCrory’s approval rating is now about the same as back in September, when only 35 percent of voters approved of the work he was doing.

Thoughts On President’s Approval Rating

Jensen explains that North Carolinians aren’t happy with President Barack Obama either, whose approval numbers have hit a record low in the State with only 40 percent of voters who approve and 54 percent of voters who disapprove.

AP Factcheck: Many Pay More Under New NC Tax Laws

RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory and his Republican allies at the legislature have hammered home a simple message about the tax reform package they passed into law earlier this year. 

On Dec. 18, McCrory said, “North Carolinians will keep more of their hard-earned money thanks to historic tax reform.”

It’s true that the state’s income tax rate is going down for everyone in 2014. But that doesn’t mean all taxpayers will actually pay less in the coming year.

Republican lawmakers allowed the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit to expire and increased some sales taxes. As a result, many of the state’s poorest taxpayers will pay more in the coming year.

McCrory spokeswoman Kim Genardo says that when the governor spoke of new benefits for North Carolinians, he wasn’t referring to every taxpayer.

Chapel Hill Man Receives Pardon Of Innocence For ’88 Murder

RALEIGH – A Chapel Hill man has been granted a pardon of innocence by Governor Pat McCrory after 16 and a half years behind bars.

Gov. McCrory called 63-year-old LaMonte Burton Armstrong Monday to tell him the news. The pardon of innocence makes Armstrong eligible for up to $750,000 to compensate for the wrongful conviction.

According to a news release sent out by the governor’s office, Armstong was found guilty of first-degree murder in 1995 for the murder of a North Carolina A&T professor in 1988 when Ernestine Compton was found dead in her Greensboro home.

Although no evidence ever linked Armstrong to the crime scene, an acquaintance, Charles Blackwell, turned him in. In 2010, Blackwell told investigators that he only did that to collect the reward from Crime Stoppers.

In 2011, the Duke Wrongful Conviction Clinic reviewed Armstrong’s case and requested a Motion for Appropriate Relief (MAR).

Less than a year later, State investigators re-ran all known prints from the case. One of these prints was an unidentified partial palm print found on a door frame above the victim’s body. Using a new database, the palm print was matched to another suspect in the case. He was released on June 29, 2012.

Armstrong works for The Freedom House in Chapel Hill where he serves as an outpatient substance abuse counselor. He’s attending Wake Technical Community College to become certified as a substance abuse counselor.

During the call with Gov. McCrory, Armstrong asked that he got a chance to shoot the basketball a bit with the governor, to which he accepted.

Wal-Mart, AIG Say They Plan Nearly 700 NC Jobs

MEBANE — The world’s largest retail store chain and a financial company that got the biggest U.S. government bailout five years ago are opening new North Carolina operations that expect to employ nearly 700 workers.

Gov. Pat McCrory’s office said Tuesday Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to open a grocery distribution center in AlamanceCounty that is forecast to employ about 450. State and local governments offered the retail giant more than $9 million in tax breaks, land, roads and other incentives if it meets job and investment projections.

Insurance giant American International Group plans a Charlotte software design, development and testing center employing 230 people. AIG could get more than $5 million in government sweeteners.

An Israel-based textile maker says it’s adding 65 jobs at Spuntech Industries Inc. in Roxboro.

NC Teachers Could See A Pay Raise In 2014

CHAPEL HILL - North Carolina teachers have gone six years without a real pay raise, but that might change next year.

Governor Pat McCrory said Tuesday that he wants to roll out a North Carolina public school teacher pay proposal early in 2014 but didn’t get into the specifics of the plan.

Mary Gunderson, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ Coordinator of Teacher Recruitment & Support, said that without an attractive beginning salary to offer, it has been hard for the district to attract new and qualified teachers.

“Any increase for persons across the pay scale, but particularly those at the beginning of the pay scale, is very much needed and very much welcomed,” Gunderson said.

North Carolina’s teachers are among the lowest paid in the country, ranking 46th. The beginning salary for a teacher with less than six years of experience is $30,800 for the 2013-2014 school year, according to the NC Department of Public Instruction.

District leaders have said in the past that CHCCS relies on recruiting teachers from outside North Carolina due to a shortage of teachers from within the State. The district is forced to compete with other states that offer higher salaries, and often it comes up short.

“We absolutely need a competitive salary so that we can attract new people to the profession and to be able to retain them as the years go by,” Gunderson said.

McCrory told reporters after Tuesday’s Council of State meeting that the first step is making sure there’s room in the budget for teachers’ pay increases.

Stagnant salaries are just one of the many issues that educators have said threaten the education system in North Carolina. State lawmakers eliminated salary bonuses for teachers with advanced degrees and also nixed teacher tenure.

NC School Safety Panel Holding First Meeting

RALEIGH — A panel asked by Gov. Pat McCrory to recommend ways to make North Carolina public schools safer is holding its first meeting.

The Governor’s Task Force on Safer Schools plans to spend Wednesday’s gathering in Raleigh hearing about some new initiatives approved by the General Assembly and organizing subcommittees on certain topics.

The 20-member panel was created following a school safety report McCrory’s administration released in September. The legislature this year set aside $9 million in matching funds for school districts to hire additional resource officers and install and maintain classroom panic alarms.

Panel members include educators, law enforcement officers and health and social service workers. The chairman is Chip Hughes, a former Highway Patrol sergeant and Governor’s Crime Commission member planning to run for Craven County sheriff next year.

McCrory To Head To Washington To Discuss Military

RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory is scheduled to use a trip to Washington to bring attention to the importance of the military and veterans in North Carolina.

A statement from the governor’s office said McCrory will meet with military and congressional leaders Wednesday in Washington.

While there, McCrory will meet with officials at the Pentagon to discuss the military’s impact on North Carolina. He will also meet with North Carolina’s Congressional Delegation to discuss ways to further support the military and veterans.

North Carolina’s military community consists of six major installations with more than 150 National Guard and Army Reserve facilities.