When Democrats controlled North Carolina state government for more than a century, they built a teacher compensation system with "steps" - big pay hikes at random intervals over the course of a teacher's career.
When Republicans took control, they scrapped that system. They raised starting pay to $35,000 with scheduled $1,000 annual raises for the first 15 years of a teacher's career. This "front loading" was meant to attract and retain young teachers who were hit hard by the pay freeze.
A pay freeze implemented by Democrats during the Great Recession in 2009.
From WRAL in 2013:
One out of nine teachers earn the lowest base salary of $30,800 because there are few meaningful raises until the fifth year on the job, the report said. The North Carolina average teacher salary of $45,933 last year was nearly $10,000 less than the national average, according to the National Education Association.
Public schools have lost more than 4,000 teachers within the first three years of their careers since 2008, the report said. Losing the newcomers is especially a problem in North Carolina, which has a strategy of developing rookies rather than bringing in veteran teachers.
This "front loading" leads to teachers earning about a quarter-million dollars MORE over the course of their careers. This is a critical point. People who understand how money works know this.
As Republicans began overhauling the compensation system in 2011 (while fixing a state budget that was bleeding billions of dollars), they were met with howls of protest - because the system wasn't giving raises to veteran teachers, too.
This week, Republicans unveiled their budget proposal, which includes another pay raise for teachers. (It's the 6th straight pay hike.)
The average increase is 4.6%. It targets veteran teachers.
From WRAL Tuesday:
House Speaker Tim Moore said raises in recent years have been focused on younger teachers, but the plan for next year provides more for veteran educators, with a top base salary of more than $60,000 a year.
"Teachers that have been in the profession that long have been promised for years, 'We will get you to the national average,'" said Rep. Jeff Elmore , R-Wilkes, co-chairman of Education Appropriations. "Those teachers that have been promised that for basically their entire career will now see that in their base pay."
So, now the complaint is.... you guessed it... that the Republicans are ignoring new teachers.
Or as WRAL's Travis Fain framed it:
Remember: Teachers in their first 15 years are receiving AUTOMATIC pay raises of $1,000 per year - every year - for 15 years. That's a promise most folks in the private sector earning $35,000 would love to get.
I used to think that the goalposts on compensation were constantly moving.
But the truth is, there are no goalposts. It's not really about compensation. The pay scale is a means to an end.
For example, average teacher pay has been the primary measurement by which to rank and compare NC to other states. The annual ranking from the national teachers union is spread far and wide - amplifying the message that half the states aren't paying teacher enough.
When NC was ranked 47th, it was the GOP's fault. It proved they didn't care about education.
But now that average pay tops $53,000 and NC ranks 29th, we're now treated to mathematical dissertations about how using the average is not REALLY representative of anything at all.
No, there are no financial goalposts in this compensation debate. It's not about a dollar figure.
The only goalpost is putting Democrats back in power.