L’Homme grateful for teacher pay raise

Aug. 02, 2014 @ 07:07 PM

Superintendent Bert L’Homme spent the past two days meeting with leaders on the state’s top 10 school districts.

And in an interview Friday, L’Homme said the state’s budget and its impact on school districts was topic No. 1.

“We’re [the superintendents] very grateful that the General Assembly has given a pay raise to teachers,” said L’Homme, who started work here July 7.

Durham teachers had mixed views about the pay raise in the state budgetge approved by the state House and state Senate and which Gov. Pat McCrory has pledged to sign.

Some teachers are particularly concerned about a provision that does away with longevity pay for teachers.

L’Homme said he, too, is concerned about the loss of longevity pay, but said the fact that teachers will get a pay raise sends the message that the work teachers do is valued.

“In the end, they got a pay increase,” L’Homme said.

He said pay raises for teachers would average about 5.5 percent, excluding longevity pay, which legislators propose to use to help cover the pay raises.

With the money from longevity pay, the pay increases would average around 7 percent, the figure lawmakers have used in their proposals.

On Thursday, some local teachers were critical of the plan to use the money for longevity pay, an annual bonuses given to state employees after 10 years of service, to fund pay raises for teachers. 

“For this government to attempt give us the money we are contractually promised with other monies we've already earned is absurd,” NaShonda Cooke, a teacher at Eno Valley Elementary School said. “I'm sure their own teachers taught them better mathematical solutions than that.”

The $21.25 billion budget proposal also funds teaching assistant positions, some of which had been on the chopping block.

“What we can tell TA’s (teaching assistants) is that they are going to be safe for this year,” L’Homme said, adding that the assistants will play important roles as the district focuses on improving literacy in the early grades.

Aaron Beaulieu, the school district’s chief finance officer, said it will cost the district nearly $2 million to match state raises for employees paid out of local money.

Beaulieu said, however, that projections regarding its impact on the local budget could change.

The school district has approved a $408 million spending plan for the 2014-15 school year.