'It shouldn't be a Democrat and Republican Issue:' NCAE responds to budget proposals

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A day after Senate leaders released their budget proposal, NCAE President Mark Jewell shared his thoughts on the breakdown.

"Not investing in a real comprehensive salary plan for educators, again a very little increase for our classified employees, and doing nothing for our retirees," explained Jewell inside his office Wednesday afternoon.

The Senate proposal calls for a 3.5 percent raise for the average teacher over two years, with another $4.8 billion earmarked for new school construction.

"In the last five years, we've raised teacher pay about 20 percent," NC Sen. Harry Brown (R-6th District) said.

It also calls for the hiring of 100 school psychologists.

"Right now we have 600 state-funded psychologists. With this proposal every school district will have at least one," said Brown.

However, Jewell was critical of the low raise amount given to custodial staff, further calling for increases to retirees.

The House proposal would provide a 4.6 percent raise for the average teacher, and reinstate extra pay for teachers with advanced degrees, a point of contention since being removed in 2013. However, the additional pay bumps in the proposal wouldn't kick in until a teacher has accrued 15 years.

"It only gives raises for those with the experience and leaves out those in the lower end. Raises are supposed to be across the board - everyone gets a fair share and everyone moves up. That's how you build morale and keep employees," Jewell argued.

The Senate proposal did not include Medicaid expansion, which was one of five demands made by the NCAE prior to their rally earlier this month.

Senate President Berger said most people that would be included in a Medicaid expansion are healthy and 18 to 50 years old.

"Basically the incentives of providing coverage for those folks is something that disincentivizes folks to go to work," Berger said.

"I mean the healthcare of our kids is a priority there. We wanted to make sure that was addressed during our march and making sure that our most students have health insurance that they need to learn. Kids are getting sick and their parents are getting sick," said Jewell.

Instead, Jewell favored Governor Cooper's budget proposal, which would increase the starting average teacher salary by $2,500.

Last month, Berger was critical of the NCAE, arguing North Carolina teachers were awarded the third-highest pay raise in the nation over the last five years.

"The far-left NCAE has changed the goalposts year after year," Phil Berger said in a statement.

He said the teachers union is "trying to mislead the public into thinking Republicans are bad for education."

However, Jewell believed politics should be set aside.

"It shouldn't be a Democrat and Republican issue. We had Democrats and Republicans that were marching there with us on May 1st. We're in the business of politics of children right now," said Jewell.
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