As August approaches, teachers will begin a new school year and their “step” will increase by another year. That “step” is the number of years served in schools. Not long ago, teachers who served the state for at least ten years would receive what was called “longevity” pay as part of their commitment to public schools. In fact, all full-time state employees receive this – or did.
Teachers no longer get it.
In the long session of 2014, the NC General Assembly raised salaries for teachers in certain experience brackets that allowed them to say that an “average” salary for teachers was increased by over 7%. They called it a “historic raise.”
However, if you divided the amount of money used in these “historic” raises by the number of teachers who “received” them, it would probably amount to about $270 per teacher.
That historic raise was funded in part by eliminating teachers’ longevity pay.
Similar to an annual bonus, this is something that all state employees in North Carolina — except, now, for teachers — gain as a reward for continued service. The budget rolled that money into teachers’ salaries and labeled it as a raise.
That’s like me stealing money out of your wallet and then presenting it to you as a gift. And remember that teachers are the only state employees who do not receive longevity pay.
It’s almost like the North Carolina General Assembly doesn’t even want to have teachers be considered employees of the state.
This summer will be the seventh summer that veteran teachers will not receive longevity pay. For the many veteran teachers who have never really seen a raise in the past 7-8 years in actual dollars, the loss of longevity pay actually created a loss of net income on a yearly basis.
Consider the following table compiled a couple of years ago by John deVille, NC public school activist and veteran teacher who has chronicled the various changes in educational policy for years. He tracked recent teacher pay “increases” and used DATA-DRIVEN logic to show something rather interesting.
What deVille did was to compare salaries as proposed from the recent budget to the 2008-2009 budget that was in place right before the Great Recession hit, the same financial catastrophe that most every GOP stalwart seems to forget happened ten years ago. Adjusting the 2008-2009 salary schedule with an inflation index from the Bureau of Labor, the third column shows what those 2008-2009 salaries would be like now. Most steps see a shortfall. Add to that the loss of longevity pay that was used to help finance these “historic raises” and the amount of money lost by teachers over these past ten years becomes rather eye-opening.
New teachers entering the profession in North Carolina have seen the removal of graduate degree pay bumps and due-process rights. While the “average” salary increases have been most friendly to newer teachers (financed in part by removal of longevity), those pay “increases” do plateau at about Year 15 in a teacher’s career. Afterwards, nothing really happens. Teachers in that position may have to make career-ending decisions.
The removal of longevity might make those decisions easier to make on a personal level, but more difficult for the state to recover from.
Longevity pay does mean that much to veteran teachers. It also means a lot to the NCGA because they used its elimination to help wage a systematic war against veteran teachers.
Veteran teachers fight for schools, for students, for fairness in funding, and for the profession. When they act as a cohesive group, they represent an entity that scares the current leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly like nothing else.