State House 50 Representative Graig Meyer said that teacher morale in our local school districts and across North Carolina is currently the lowest he has experienced during his career in public education. Teachers in the state have gone six years without a real pay raise, in addition to other setbacks.

“While the General Assembly talks about recruiting and retaining teachers, they have to remember there is a third ‘R.’ That is respecting teachers,” said Meyer, who is also the Director of Student Equity and Volunteer Services for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

He was appointed to the House 50 seat in October of last year. However, the General Assembly doesn’t reconvene for the short session until May 14, and the 2014 Primary is May 6, so he is currently on the campaign trail.

Meyer said that education is his most important platform issue.

Tuesday morning, he attended a teacher pay task force meeting at the General Assembly in Raleigh.

The major take-away from the discussion, Meyer explained, was that lawmakers are considering alternative teacher pay models that could be coupled with strong student performance in the classroom. He said that in theory it is a good idea, but state leaders have not devised a clear system to offer incentives state-wide.

Governor Pat McCrory announced a plan earlier this month to increase starting teachers’ salaries nearly 14 percent in the next two years, but no immediate increase was mentioned for teaching professionals already into their careers.

“We have heard the proposal that they would like to raise the pay for starting teachers so that every teacher in the state would make a minimum of $35,000, which is a step in the right direction,” Meyer said. “Unfortunately, we heard again this morning that they are not planning to give teachers an across-the-board raise.”

Meyer explained that the proposal states that new teachers’ pay would be fixed at the starting salary for approximately the first ten years of their career and that instructors with more than nine years of experience would not get a pay raise unless policies are changed.

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. The beginning salary for a teacher in North Carolina with less than six years of experience is $30,800 for the 2013-2014 school year, according to the NC Department of Public Instruction.

Going into their sixth year, teachers currently get $420 added to the base salary. Meyer added that CHCCS and Durham Public Schools add salary supplements separate from the state.

Stagnant salaries are just one of the many issues that educators have said threaten the education system in North Carolina. In 2013, state lawmakers eliminated salary bonuses for teachers with advanced degrees and also nixed teacher tenure.

“I want to start to change the narrative about public education and remind people that North Carolina has always relied on its public education system to create opportunities for the next generation of North Carolinians. We need strong public schools  in the state. This means we have to value the people who work in those schools with compensations, and valuing their time and expertise.”

Tuesday morning was only the first meeting of Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force. Legislators authorized the panel to make recommendations by mid-April, according to the Associated Press.