Thursday, 24 October 2019 12:30

Two education-related mini-budgets move through state senate

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RALEIGH — Senate Republicans introduced Wednesday, Oct. 23, a pair of mini-budget bills that would raise pay for K-12 educators and university employees.

The move continues the GOP’s strategy of introducing mini-budgets to get around Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget veto. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said the Senate will pass these piecemeal spending plans until Oct. 31, when the Senate will adjourn for the year. House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, hasn’t said when the House will adjourn. But he’s hinted it’ll be soon after the Senate leaves.

A proposed committee substitute to House Bill 377 would provide $16.3 million in both years of the biennium to increase salaries for teachers, instructional support personnel, and assistant principals. Principals would also see merit-based bonuses and recruitment supplements. The PCS passed the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Teachers and instructional support personnel only receive annual step increases held up by the budget stalemate. Non-certified school staff don’t receive any pay raises in the bill. Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said there will likely be a bill to address pay raises for custodians and cafeteria workers in the future.

The committee also approved a PCS to House Bill 231 that would raise pay for employees of the University of North Carolina system and the N.C. Community College system.

For UNC salary increases, the mini-budget appropriates $15 million in the first year and $30 million the second year. A little more than $12 million would be appropriated in the first year for N.C. Community College salaries, and $24.8 million in the second year. The PCS to H.B. 231 includes $17 million over two years for UNC faculty retention.

Both measures are on the Senate’s Thursday calendar for a floor vote.

Pay raises for teachers is a point of contention between Republicans in the General Assembly and Cooper, a Democrat.

The $24 billion budget passed earlier this year included an average 3.8% raise for teachers over two years. Cooper vetoed the budget plan June 28, primarily because it didn’t include money to expand Medicaid. But Cooper also wanted a higher raise for teachers. In his counter proposal, the governor called for an average teacher raise of 8.5% over two years.

The General Assembly has advanced several mini-budgets covering items with bipartisan support. Teacher pay raises have proven elusive because of the partisan disagreements over the amount.

“Governor Cooper froze teacher pay as part of his Medicaid-or-nothing budget ultimatum strategy,” Sen. Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga, said in a news release. “As conversations continue about teacher raises, we’re passing legislation to unfreeze teacher salaries so they can finally get the increases they were promised last year.”