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N.C. Gov. 'Finds' Money for Teacher Advanced-Degree Pay

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory announced on Wednesday that he has found a way to continue providing salary supplements to teachers with graduate degrees, according to numerous news reports. McCrory, a Republican, signed legislation less than two months ago that eliminates teacher tenure in the state as well as the ten percent pay bump previously given to teachers with advanced degrees.

The legislation, supposed to go into effect in January 2014, has angered many teachers in the state. Though it would protect those teachers already receiving the additional compensation, it would be in effect for any teachers graduating after the end of the 2013-2014 school year, many of whom have already spent thousands of dollars on their graduate degrees. In addition, the legislation requires teachers to submit all forms by April 1, meaning that it could have repercussions for teachers graduating in May or June of this academic year.

McCrory now wants to extend the current deadline for forms until May 2014, a change that would be covered in the 2013-2014 state budget, and provide $10 million in funding from the 2014-2015 budget to provide the additional compensation to the more than 3,000 teachers currently enrolled in master's degree programs.

It appears that McCrory intends to fund the program by making cuts to the state's Medicaid program. He blamed cost overruns in the Medicaid program for the cuts in the education budget and mentioned that he has "some fairly controversial proposals to change Medicaid."

Although McCrory's announcement came as a relief to educators, the North Carolina State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey said that same day that the board itself is currently unable to adopt this policy beyond the 2014 spring graduates. "I don't want to contradict anybody," he said. "That's under the legislature. The legislature would like to correct it."

State Rep. Mike Hager, also a Republican, believes that there is support for McCrory's new plan in the legislature. "I think there's a lot of the legislature, especially in the House, that agrees with him," he said.

Even if McCrory secures $10 million for the education budget, North Carolina has a long way to go before it will compete with other states' teacher salaries. According to the National Education Association, the state was ranked 25th in the nation for average teacher pay in 2008. In 2013, it was ranked 46th—and teachers did not receive a raise this year.

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