RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Eight billboards recently posted along key highways across the state display a loaded question to teachers in bold white letters: "Want a $450 raise?"
The message is part of a new public campaign launched this week by conservative think tank, NC Civitas Institute, urging teachers to quit the North Carolina Association of Educators.
"They're not really an advocate for education. They're an advocate for people who pay dues to them," said Francis De Luca, NC Civitas President.
De Luca said members could get an instant $450 annual pay hike if they leave the organization and stop paying dues.
The campaign claims the NCAE has failed teachers and urges them to opt-out by September 30th, before payrolls are finalized.
"A lot of the reasons teachers and other employees join the NCAE is no longer valid," said De Luca. "A lot of them joined to get the liability insurance for their job protection. Well, now the state offers that."
It's the latest attack in a feud over teacher pay that's heating up between conservatives and the NCAE, a vocal opponent of recent changes by Republicans.
Thursday, Gov. Pat McCrory took a jab at NCAE President Rodney Ellis before he signed the new state budget that includes historic raises for teachers.
"Now, I also realize that the head of the current teachers union continues to criticize this budget, even though his salary is, I assume, is much higher than any teacher in North Carolina," said McCrory.
NC Civitas also criticized hefty salaries paid to top officers which, according to tax records, average around $180,000.
"The average high-level executive at the North Carolina Association of Educators makes four times what the average teacher makes. So you have a bunch of hard-working teachers paying for a bunch less-hard working union executives," said De Luca.
The NCAE fired back with a statement Thursday afternoon, which read, "The salaries of NCAE leadership are determined by NCAE's governing documents, which are adopted by elected member representatives. The salaries reflect the responsibilities and obligations expected of these offices."
NC Civitas plans to expand the campaign in the coming weeks.