Atkinson Asking State Board of Education to Protect Pay For Master Degree Graduates

State superintendent Dr. June Atkinson is now asking members of the State Board of Education to consider enacting a policy change which would allow for teachers receiving master's degrees in the spring of 2014 to receive their supplemental pay for deciding to continue their education. The General Assembly passed a budget last month that would eliminate supplemental pay for master's degrees beginning with the 2014 - 15 academic year. All those who have received master's degrees before that period would be grandfathered in with the schedule. However, the law is considered to be very vague in regards to the cutoff date for grandfathering in the 2014 master's degree recipients.

Representative Rick Glazier was under the understanding that teachers who had graduated by June 30th, 2014 would be able to get included into the master's degree salary schedule before the pay supplements were ended. However, based on a policy that was previously enacted by the State Board of Education, the salary schedules will start and end on April 1st, so the teachers that want to be grandfathered in have to complete their degrees before this period of time. Most of the spring graduations do not take place before May, which means that the majority of the teachers who are in the middle of their coursework are scheduled to graduate next spring and will not experience an increase in pay. This is despite the fact that they were promised aa salary increase 10 to 15 percent when they first began their program.

Atkinson called on the Board members to work on a solution for the situation. She says that they should change the policy during their September meeting so that all of the teachers who finish their master's degrees in the spring of 2014 will be able to receive their supplemental master's pay. Many of the members expressed their support for the motion. Chairman Bill Cobey said that he hopes that he will be able to ask the Governor to consider some other ways to grandfather everyone into the law if they have already begun a master's degree program, regardless of when their graduation date may be. He also said that it was unfair to essentially penalize those who had already started their programs due to the mistake made by the policy.

During the September meeting, a fiscal note will be provided to the Board members so that they will be able to see the cost associated with making the policy change. Many educators have also expressed concern that eliminating the supplemental pay associated with the master's degree may be another reason for teachers to leave the state for other locales where they will be paid higher salaries. North Carolina ranks 46th in the nation for teacher pay. In the long run, the majority involved hope that the board will be able to approve the policy change and grandfather in those who are already working towards their master's degree.