FACT CHECK: “Largest Teacher Raise in State History”? Uh, No...

8 Comment(s) | Posted
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Contact: Logan Smith

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Like budget clockwork, legislative leaders warp reality on funding for public schools.

RALEIGH -- Republican leaders at the General Assembly still have not released details on their proposed cuts needed to pay for a one-time pay raise for teachers. Instead, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Sen. Phil Berger are crowing that the salary bump is “the largest in state history.” This claim is simply false, as legislative leaders attempt to distract from their record of choosing reckless tax cuts for the wealthy over funding for our public schools. 

From 1997 to 2000, the General Assembly raised teacher pay over four consecutive years in order to fulfill Gov. Jim Hunt’s campaign pledge to raise teacher pay to the national average. The average yearly raises were up to 7.5%, with the state investing a total of more than $1.1 billion (News & Observer, 6/18/01) to raise teacher salaries.

In 1999 alone, North Carolina spent $291 million (Charlotte Observer, 6/30/99) to raise teacher pay by 7.5% (Associated Press, 7/1/99). Adjusted for inflation, the 1999 raise is worth $416 million in 2014 dollars.

By contrast, the 2014 raise averages 7% for teachers and costs $282 million. And given the recent revelations that the Tillis/Berger tax cuts will cost even more than projected, the sustainability of those raises is highly suspect.

“Legislative leaders don’t want people talking about the cuts they’re using to pay for these raises, or the failed tax handouts for big corporations and the wealthy that cost the state billions in lost revenue,” said Gerrick Brenner, Executive Director of Progress North Carolina Action. “So instead, they’re making up claims that don’t even hold up to a basic fact check.

In 1998, the state spent $200 million (before inflation) to raise teacher pay by 6.5% -- and spent an additional $72 million to reward teachers whose students met higher standards (News & Observer, 11/3/98). Adjusted for inflation, the $272 million raise in 1999 is worth $389 million in 2014 dollars.

Under the 1997 Excellent Schools Act, which put into law a sustained commitment to raise teacher pay to the national average, lawmakers raised pay each year as follows:


Average Raise

Total Investment (Pre-Inflation)

Total Investment (Inflation Adjusted)




$171 million

$254 million

Charlotte Observer (8/28/97)



$272 million

$389 million

News & Observer (11/3/98)



$291 million

$416 million

Charlotte Observer (6/30/99), News & Observer (11/3/98)



$223 million

$308 million

Charlotte Observer (7/15/00), Winston-Salem Journal (7/16/00)



$282 million

$282 million




  1. Stephanie Justice's avatar
    Stephanie Justice
    | Permalink
    If they eliminate longevity pay it won't be a 7% raise either!
  2. John Melcher's avatar
    John Melcher
    | Permalink
    The grammatical errors on this article are embarrassing. "This claim simply false", "choosing reckless over funding our public schools"- reckless what? "To reward teachers who students...". At least edit your articles first.
  3. Michael Waters's avatar
    Michael Waters
    | Permalink
    The legislature has been rightfully cited for anti-child , anti- teacher actions. This latest attempt to push that under a rug is a lame lie.
  4. Michael Waters's avatar
    Michael Waters
    | Permalink
    I agree with John Melcher about the errors. I have asked progress three times to get a proofreader or go back to school.
  5. Catherine Raspet's avatar
    Catherine Raspet
    | Permalink
    Smoke and mirrors. Until the money is in black and white and real without variable adjustments, new verses tenured teachers, don't count your raise. Raleigh, needs to catch up on 5 years of disregarding the most significant valuable people teaching our future, outside of their parents.
  6. April Hunt's avatar
    April Hunt
    | Permalink
    Teachers and students are not valued
  7. Elizabeth Estes's avatar
    Elizabeth Estes
    | Permalink
    Proofreaders rock!
  8. Gerrick Brenner's avatar
    Gerrick Brenner
    | Permalink
    Thanks for flagging the corrections. The changes have been made.
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