Both sides agree teachers need a pay raise, but when it comes to why they haven't had one in five years -- and why teachers are leaving -- Republicans say they aren't to blame.
One day after Wake County schools revealed more than 600 teachers quit mid-year (a 41 percent increase over last year), a chart compiled by the Wake County Republican Party shows teacher salaries dropped nearly 15 percent since 2008, mostly under the leadership of former governor Bev Perdue.
"If that had not happened prior to last year, would we be seeing all this?" questioned Donna Williams, chairwoman of the Wake County Republican Party.
Republicans also blame the state's $2 billion Medicaid debt for halting teacher raises.
"I look at our current legislators and our current governor as being responsible, paying our bills and then we go forward," Williams said. "And to have done that and still increase education spending by $361 million -- that's pretty incredible."
But education advocates said that increase wasn't nearly enough to cover the increase in students last year -- an increase of 17,000 statewide. Classroom sizes increased, per student spending decreased, and teacher turnover reached 14 percent.
"The General Assembly and the governor could have afforded to give every public school worker a significant pay raise had they chosen not to implement a voucher plan and not to roll back taxes for millionaires and flat tax corporations," said Mark Jewell, vice president of the North Carolina Association of Educators.
While the teacher pay issue grows more political, Wake County school leaders fear employees will continue to leave before lawmakers can come up with a pay raise that will keep them in the classroom.
"Sadly, I think this is the tip of the iceberg," Jewell said.
Governor McCrory has proposed boosting salaries for starting teachers over the next couple of years, but there are no concrete plans for pay raises for veteran teachers. The General Assembly will consider the issue of teacher salaries when it meets next month.