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NC educators on pay task force unhappy with their panel's own report for being lax on details

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RALEIGH, North Carolina — Several educators and legislators on a General Assembly task force were cool Monday to their own panel's recommendations for overhauling public school teacher compensation, which included few specific actions and asked for another study.

The final report of the Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force lacked a detailed road map on how to improve salaries for all educators and evaluate teacher performance to reward the best instructors.

Instead, the report offered almost a dozen findings and four goals, which included raising early-career teacher salaries significantly in the short term and all teacher pay in the long term while modernizing the compensation system. The task force also asked the legislature to pass a law telling the State Board of Education to come up with a detailed compensation system proposal by next March 15.

"I think what you see in our final report is largely a set of goals and principles to be applied, as a specific plan is created," said a co-chairman, Rep. Rob Bryan, R-Mecklenburg.

Some teachers serving on the panel complained that leaders failed to take their input or give them enough time to offer it. The panel met four times over less than two months, with educators and experts telling members about what's working and what's not in North Caroilna school districts and in other states.

"I'm struggling with why we were brought here," said Timothy Barnsback, president of the Professional Educators of North Carolina and a Burke County middle school teacher. "We've heard a lot of presentations and propaganda but there really hasn't been a whole lot of meaningful discussion going forward."

Former high school teacher Rep. Tricia Cotham, D-Mecklenburg, called the report's contents "fluff." She said veteran teachers, who have received one raise since 2008, are working second jobs during breaks to make ends meet.

"Frankly, I'm disappointed we didn't make a lot more progress and have much more specificity in our recommendations," GOP Rep. Craig Horn of Union County said.

A few educators voted against the final report. Bryan defended the recommendations and said the experience of other states shows overhauling a compensation system takes three to five years. Panel members were allowed to offer changes to the report before Monday, Bryan said.

Forsyth County teacher Rebecca Fagge, another member, thanked panel leaders for not moving swiftly on such important issues. "It's more important to me that we do this correctly," she said.

Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders already want to approve legislation during the legislative session starting next month to raise the base salary floor to $33,000 this fall and $35,000 for fall 2015. The current state starting salary of $30,800 is making it difficult to recruit teachers or keep them from going to other states.

McCrory and lawmakers have said salary increases to all teachers depend on the state's fiscal picture. Raising the salary floor to $35,000 will cost around $200 million over two years. Some critics blame Republican tax and education policies for the lack of funds for broader raises.

An updated compensation system would change experience-based scales that also give supplements to teachers with master's or doctoral degrees. The legislature voted last summer to phase out the master's supplement. The report says incentive pay or higher raises based on teacher performance should be examined by the State Board of Education.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph and the panel's other co-chairman, said the public today no longer accepts that "you're paying the most highly effective teacher that's got 20 or 30 years (experience) the same amount of raise ... as you're paying the most least effective one."

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