Wake Co Schools chief says teacher pay is top priority

CARY (WTVD) -- Wake County Superintendent Dr. Jim Merrill and his colleagues are pleading with state lawmakers to invest in schools during the upcoming short session.

Merrill, the superintendent for the largest school district in the states, said increasing teacher pay is the No. 1 priority. He says far too many teachers are taking up part-time jobs to make a decent living.

"Go to a restaurant, see how many of the waiters or waitresses are also teachers," Merrill said.

Not only is the pay low, there are cost factors to even teach in this state. Superintendents want legislators to reform the licensing process. They say it's creating major barriers when bringing in new talent.

"If you got a choice between North Carolina and South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia with their higher salary schedule, why would you come to North Carolina where you have to take tests and pay big funds out of your pocket?" said Cumberland County Superintendent Dr. Frank Till.

Merrill believes reducing the burdensome and costly testing requirement, while also increasing first-year teacher pay, will help with recruitment and retainment.

He said, "It keeps the profession more attractive so that more young people are going into teaching. Schools of Ed are down 30 percent. It keeps our people in place and makes them want to stay, and stronger teachers affect student achievement."

Educators argue principal pay should also be raised and "per pupil" funding for textbooks should go back to pre-recession levels. In 2008, districts are getting $67.15 per student. The combined allotment for 2015-2016 is $29.05.

Lawmakers will consider these requests when they return to the General Assembly next Monday.

ABC11 asked Merrill about House Bill 2. The law affects the bathroom policy inside schools and administrative buildings.

"At this point, we're just following our attorney's advice and just watching carefully on both the federal and state level," Merrill responded.

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