Teacher pay increases may be a possibility in the upcoming legislative session, according to Rep. Hugh Blackwell (R-Burke), who chairs the House committee on education spending.
Blackwell weighed in Tuesday morning on a panel held by the Public School Forum of North Carolina in Raleigh. The education think-tank named increasing teacher pay one its most important issues of 2016. Blackwell said after the panel that the state's House leadership would get behind efforts to give teachers a raise.
"I think that that will be a top priority of the House leadership," he said. "And I hope the Senate will be on board with it."
Despite recent raises for beginning teachers, North Carolina has the lowest average teacher salary in the Southeast, and ranks 42nd in the nation in teacher pay. The Burke County lawmaker said he thinks raising pay could attract and keep more good teachers in the state.
"I do think we ought to have the goal of being the highest in our area—in particular of our adjoining states: Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina," he said.
But Blackwell said any raise would not be accomplished through tax hikes, which some members of the Public School Forum say are needed to get the state's per-pupil spending back to pre-recession levels.
"The Public School Forum is wrong in pushing for tax increases," he said. "We're not going to do that."
Blackwell said he's hoping increased revenues from an improving economy will allow lawmakers to bump up pay for teachers and other state employees in the short session, which begins April.