McCrory’s teacher pay plan: Neither fois gras nor chopped liver

There are better ways to get public school teachers in North Carolina a respectable paycheck, but no teacher – not after getting one raise in five years, not in a state winning the race to the bottom of the pay scale – is going to turn her nose up at the morsels offered by Gov. Pat McCrory as he trumpeted his Career Pathways plan on Wednesday. Still, all liver isn’t fois gras, no matter how impressive the presentation.
NC Policy Watch breaks down the governor’s pay plan here It’s a combination of things he’s already done (raises for beginning teachers), things he should have done (raises for experienced teachers) and things he had to do (restore the supplement for teachers earning advanced degrees, an incentive Republican legislators killed last year).
While they won’t close the gap created by years of no or minimal pay increases for teachers – North Carolina ranks dead last in that category nationally over the past 10 years – these initiatives will help improve the state’s average-pay ranking from 46th in the nation and, more importantly, improve school districts’ chances of hiring and retaining quality teachers. The catch is this: the governor’s plan is only a plan, encased in a budget proposal that the General Assembly has the option – some would say the habit – of ignoring. While fellow Republicans won’t make minchmeat of the governor’s proposal, they won’t swallow it whole either.
The Career Pathways plan, though lacking specifics, is that piece the governor contends will bring teacher pay into the 21st century. All of us want to be au courant, but you have to wonder how many ways there are to pay people. The problem with structuring a pay-for-performance plan for teachers is that the usual metrics don’t apply. You can’t blame McCrory for trying, and some elements of Career Pathways look like clear winners; but most such plans over time actually create disincentives and a competitiveness unwelcome in a profession where teamwork and creativity are essential.
This shouldn’t be complicated. Education in North Carolina doesn’t work without public schools. Schools don’t work without good teachers. Good teachers are hard to find at $30,000 a year to start and harder to keep when they can make more money elsewhere. North Carolinians get that; polls show they overwhelmingly favor higher pay for teachers. Better pay, better teachers, better schools.