Conservative group challenges NC teacher's union

Civitas report

May 5, 2011 7:29:51 AM PDT
The North Carolina Association of Educators represents about half of the teachers in the state. The NCAE sees itself as the last line of defense for teachers and public education, but a new report out by the conservative group Civitas questions whether teachers and students really are priority number one for the state's largest advocate group.

The report highlights increases in pay and total compensation for top executives at NCAE between 2006 and 2009.

"An increase of 24 percent and the average teacher salary increase for the same years was 12 percent," said Bob Luebke with Civitas.

Luebke said in a time of cutbacks, he'd expect those two numbers to be more in line with each other.

The Civitas report also shows NCAE's executive director's total salary and compensation went up 38 percent to more than $229,000. The vice president's went up 33 percent to more than $170,000. The president's rose 10 percent to more than $150,000.

"They seem to have been immune from a lot of the cutbacks, in general, that we've been talking about for education," said Luebke.

But NCAE's business affairs manager Tom Herbert says those numbers, while correct, are misleading.

"24 percent is the proper figure, but it's what drives that that is the issue," he explained.

Herbert says salaries haven't increased much at all. He said the overall compensation jump is mostly related to retirement.

"As the stock market went down in 2008-9, we were required to pay in additional moneys to make up the difference in what the stock market took away from our [employees]," he said.

The report also says, between 2006 and 2009, the NCAE increased its own ranks by 58 percent - going from 86 to 135 employees.

NCAE Vice President Rodney Ellis told ABC11 that part of the report is just plain wrong.

"NCAE has never employed 135 people," he said.

Ellis says the Civitas number is based on W-2s that were filed over that time and not permanent employees. He says right now, the NCAE has 76 employees. That's less than in 2006.

"It's disheartening that people would try to force something like this as an issue when it really is not an issue. The real issue is: What are we going to do to save and protect public schools in North Carolina?" said Ellis. "This is strictly a ploy to try to divert our attention from what the true issues are."

The Civitas report says the average NCAE employee makes $58,000 in salary and benefits. The NCAE didn't challenge that. For reference, the same number for the average teacher in Wake County is just over $60,000.

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