Education groups criticize state budget plan

by: Jenna Deery Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Education groups are criticizing a new state plan to raise teacher pay because they are concerned the amount state leaders promise to give isn't as good as it seems.
 
"We're coming to the understanding that it is smoke and mirrors," said Charlie Smith with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Association of Educators.
 
A copy of the budget bill has not been made public but Smith said officials in Raleigh told him the average 7 percent pay raise lawmakers are touting shortchanges state employees who receive longevity pay.
 
Now, teachers with 10 years or more experience receive a bonus check that's not taxed.
 
The proposed plan includes eliminating longevity pay and lumping it into pay raises.
 
The proposed pay plan associated with pay raises shows teachers' salaries would increase every five years instead of every year.
 
Some experienced teachers would get less of a pay raise than other teachers with just a few years less experience.
 
"You're slapping the experienced teachers in the face by saying, 'Here's a raise but part of the money, you already have,'" said Smith.
 
Mecklenburg County leaders have promised to match the state pay raise lawmakers agree on with the raise 991 county-funded teachers would get.
 
The number of experienced CMS teachers could determine how much extra cash Mecklenburg county leaders have to find to match that state pay raises.
 
"Once we know what that number is, we need to determine if we have enough in restricted contingency," said Diorio.
 
County Manager Dena Diorio said there is enough money set aside to pay for 2 percent raises for 991 county-funded teachers who don't get the state pay raise.
 
To match the increases the state sets, money may have to be pulled from the county's savings account or county leaders could use money earmarked to pay back debt.
 
"I think there are multiple options that we would have to consider," said Diorio.
 
If the budget bill passes, the raises would apply this school year.