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Some teachers give NC Senate budget failing grade

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Major changes could be coming to your child's classroom if some state senators get their way. 

On party lines, with 33 Republicans in favor versus 17 Democrats opposed, on Wednesday state senators gave preliminary approval to their $20 billion budget, which would make significant reforms to public education.

Lawmakers want to remove caps on class sizes and eliminate thousands of teachers assistants and replace them with more certified teachers. They also want to give local school districts more flexibility in how they use state funding and want to incentivize good teachers with merit pay and limited contracts instead of offering teachers "career status," which is sometimes referred to as "tenure."

But it's one thing lawmakers don't want to change that really has some life-long educators upset, and that's teacher pay, ranked 45th in the nation by the National Education Association.

"It's assault on public education.  It's assault on children.  It's an assault on teachers," retired Wake County elementary school teacher Linda Ward said.  "Teachers haven't had a raise in years. In years!"

But Mitch Kokai with the conservative John Locke Foundation says the proposals actually strengthen public education. Reforms to teacher tenure are a prime example, he says.

"If someone is not doing a good job then after a couple of years they really aren't hacking it, you don't want to be hindered in your ability to convince them it's time to pick a new career," Kokai said.

Senate leaders blame the lack of teacher raises and proposed reductions in teaching assistants on ballooning Medicaid costs.

"...Which leaves North Carolina little room to spend money on other things," Kokai said. "..even high priority items, like education."

But Ward says this budget shows public education is no longer a high priority.

"Why go into teaching," Ward said, "When you can go into someplace else and in five to 10 years, you can probably be making double what you'd be making in teaching?"

A final vote on the Senate's budget plan could come as early as today.

Derick Waller

Derick is a reporter for WNCN covering crime, education, politics and just about everything in between. He has a knack for adapting to any story and consistently delivers information quickly across multiple platforms. More>>

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