Teachers in the Wake County Public School System might have a higher salary next year after county commissioners proposed a raise funded independently from the state Oct. 6.
“We are committed to working toward compensating staff adequately for their services and dedication,” said Heather Lawing, spokesperson for the Wake County Public School System.
Lawing said the money would not go specifically toward any school, but would help individual teachers.
The changes proposed to the county budget will attempt to raise all teacher salaries by around $2,000. This will raise the average salary of public school teachers in Wake County to $35,000 annually. The change is aimed to help improve North Carolina’s teacher salary ranking, which is currently one of the lowest in the nation.
Money for the proposed change would be taken from other places in the budget.
“There are three main sources of funds for schools — they are funded by federal government, state government and local property taxes,” said Thurston Domina, associate professor of educational policy and sociology at UNC.
He said the increase in teacher salary would most likely come from the property taxes — the most flexible part of school funding.
Domina said districts with higher property taxes have more wiggle-room in budget changes while areas that rely on state and federal funds will have a harder time allocating the heavily-earmarked money.
Eric Houck, associate professor of educational leadership and policy at UNC, said schools have to request funding from county commissioners.
“It’s commendable that the school has decided to place their priorities with raising the teacher salaries,” he said.
But some have questioned whether higher salaries are the best thing for Wake County schools.
“The money has to be cut from someplace else,” Domina said.
He said cuts could come from places such as decreasing the number of teacher aides in the schools or lowering costs on curriculum by ordering fewer textbooks. There are other ways to increase salary, Domina said, like increasing class size.
“Improving teacher quality is worth much more than getting a smaller class size,” he said.
Houck said the salary increase in Wake County might not bring better teachers to the district, who could be drawn to the profession for other reasons.
“People who are going into the teaching profession have already shown that they’re not highly motivated by money,” he said.
In any case, Domina said increasing salaries could lead to an interesting series of tradeoffs.
“The benefits and costs are very much in the realm of speculation,” he said.
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