Thousands marched down Fayetteville St. in downtown Raleigh on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 to demand more funding from state lawmakers for public education.

Thousands marched down Fayetteville St. in downtown Raleigh on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 to demand more funding from state lawmakers for public education.

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The North Carolina Association of Educators is opposing a proposal to switch from paying teachers based on their years of experience to basing it on their performance.

A state commission is working on a new licensure and compensation model that would pay teachers based on their ratings on student test scores or evaluations and whether they’re willing to take on additional duties.

In a statement Thursday, NCAE charged that the new model would create an “enigmatic evaluation method” for teachers and threatens to withhold raises or revoke a teacher’s license if they fail to meet these benchmarks.

NCAE said more than 1,000 teachers voiced their displeasure with the proposal at a town hall last week.

“For the sake of our children and the teaching profession, we need to fund what we know works adequately,” NCAE said in its statement. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel on licensure and compensation with a pipeline plan designed to leak.”

The Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC) hopes to present a final model in September to the State Board of Education for its approval later this year. It would be up to state lawmakers whether to fund the plan.

The NCAE opposition comes as the plan has received the backing of members of the business community. The Charlotte-based Belk Foundation provided a grant to fund a public relations campaign to get the plan approved, WFAE reported.

“North Carolina has an opportunity to design a system that invites diverse and capable educators into the profession, provides the support they deserve, and then offers options for them to grow in their career,” the Belk Foundation said in a statement released July 12.

“We believe the current process of review and recommendation by the PEPSC commission and then review and approval by the NC State Board of Education is allowing for the engagement of key stakeholders. We believe there are many opportunities to strengthen the teaching profession and look forward to the work of PEPSC and the State Board of Education.”

Thousands marched down Fayetteville St. in downtown Raleigh on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 to demand more funding from state lawmakers for public education. Julia Wall [email protected]

Basing pay on effectiveness

Currently, North Carolina teachers start at a state base salary of $37,000. They get annual state raises for their first 15 years, then less frequent raises after that. The scale tops out at $54,000, but school districts and the state often supplement the base pay.

Teachers can get state bonuses based on their students’ test scores, but it’s not built into their base salary.

But under the new model, there would be seven levels ranging from $30,000 for aspiring teachers who haven’t yet received a bachelor’s degree up to the highest level, where the proposed minimum salary is $73,000.

Instead of advancing up with each year of experience, teachers would move up based on whether they’re considered to be effective. Teachers can meet these standards based on student growth on state tests or reviews by their principal, a higher-level teacher and student surveys.

The highest-paid positions would go to effective teachers who take on additional leadership roles in their schools.

Marketing the new model

Justin Parmenter, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg middle school teacher and NCAE board member, has detailed on his Notes From the Chalkboard blog the behind-the-scenes effort to get the new model approved. He obtained hundreds of emails as part of a public records request to the state Department of Public Instruction.

Parmenter classroom
Justin Parmenter is a teacher at Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Waddell Language Academy. Nancy Pierce File photo

The emails show that the Atlanta-based Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the North Carolina Human Capital Roundtable helped develop the new model. Other emails show that SREB, the Roundtable and the public relations firm of Eckel & Vaughn plan to create a group called UpliftEd to promote the new model.

The emails show that former North Carolina governors Jim Hunt and Jim Martin agreed to be UpliftEd’s honorary co-chairmen before Hunt opted to back out this month.

Other emails discuss avoiding talking about the complexity of the plan, developing a “proactive media strategy” and working to “gain greater control of the narrative.”

One email includes notes from a March conversation by State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, State Board of Education member Jill Camnitz and PEPSC chairman Patrick Miller about trying to stop EdNC, an education news site, from surveying teachers about the proposal.

How should NC pay teachers?

Amid the criticism, the Belk Foundation argues the work the Roundtable and SREB has done is needed to address significant challenges such as fewer people wanting to be teachers.

“The licensure process remains complicated with effective teachers unable to become licensed,” Belk said in its statement. “Furthermore, compensation is a significant issue, especially in the early years, and for teachers taking on additional work without appropriate compensation or promotion.”

In its position statement, NCAE argues that the state should not “gamble on an untested proposal” rejected by other states. NCAE contends that the new model is more complex and could lead to teachers not getting annual salary increases and having the extra pay from advanced licenses stripped at any time for any reason.

“North Carolina needs a teacher licensure program that respects teachers’ expertise, rewards their time in the profession, and offers support throughout the duration of their career,” Tamika Walker Kelly, president of NCAE, said in the statement.

This story was originally published July 21, 2022 3:51 PM.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.