2021 Legislative Year In Review
Updated: Jun 8, 2022
To begin 2022, PENC thought it would be helpful to do a quick legislative review of 2021. The session was certainly a very long one, but the legislature did eventually pass a state budget in November. The most consequential items impacting public education this session centered on compensation, accountability, and healthcare. Let’s review these three items to remind us of what happened, and where we go from here.
Accountability – The pandemic without question has changed the education world as we know it, and it has greatly impacted the way PENC views accountability for our educators. PENC lobbied very hard to help legislators see that holding schools accountable and awarding school grades at this time would be unfair. We were happy to declare victory on this issue, and schools will not be held accountable for school grades this school year. PENC will continue to listen to our educators and evaluate if we need to pursue this issue further.
Healthcare – Per state law, teachers and state employees hired in 2021 and beyond would not be eligible to receive healthcare benefits upon retirement. PENC recognized that this would certainly impact teacher recruitment. PENC took a strong lead on this issue and assembled a broad list of supporters to stand with us on the issue. PENC garnered success in the House budget with what PENC considered a compromise. The House budget created a health savings account for these educators who lost the benefit in 2021 and beyond. In the end, the compromise language did not make the final version of the budget, and now we find ourselves where we started this session. However, considering that PENC did get movement in one chamber, we believe we may have a chance for success yet. PENC plans to have ongoing conversations with the state treasurer and the legislature to promote movement toward the restoration of benefits. The PENC position remains a restoration of full benefits, but we will continue to work to improve the situation.
Compensation - PENC understands that this issue is perhaps the top issue on most educators’ minds, and we spend most of our efforts trying to improve this situation. PENC met with the governor’s education team and with the budget writers in both chambers numerous times. We feel that some of the additional efforts to spend more on compensation in the House were the result of PENC’s advocacy. In the end, legislators did deliver a pay raise, but I do not think it was delivered in a way which was expected. Legislators truly neglected the salary schedule by only giving a 2.6% raise over the biennium. The General Assembly did give a healthy bonus of $2,800 that most teachers will receive. At a minimum, it looks like all teachers will receive $2,300 (which may have already been released per LEA). The monetary difference will be where you fall on total compensation since the bonus is structured to benefit the lower salaries.
The biggest surprise of the session was a 100-million-dollar compensation package to assist with local supplements that will be a recurring expenditure. This appropriation was given to all school districts except for Buncombe, Wake, Durham, Mecklenburg, and Guilford. Legislators said this was to help lower- wealth counties that currently do not have large local supplements or local supplements at all. PENC is glad to see support for our lower wealth counties, but we favor supporting all our teachers in the state equally with healthy compensation. The supplement package would not have been a bad addition to support teachers in lower wealth areas if the legislature had adequately given a raise across the board to all educators. However, when looking at the scale, some teachers come out with sizable raises. Keep in mind, this i
s recurring, and teachers will receive this every school year. It has also come to our attention that this will be given to assistant principals as well. PENC wants to confirm the assistant principal statement, but thus far it appears they will be eligible along with all teachers.
Again, this is not how PENC would have allocated the funds spent for teachers. All educators will receive the increases retroactively meaning they will go back to the beginning of the school year and compensate you for those months as well. Finally, districts may distribute the money differently, so that process will not be uniform.
Finally, I will remind
other educators whose compensation was straight forward, what they received. Again, these educators will be treated retroactively as well.
Principals received 2.5% each year of the biennium for a total of 5%.
Assistant principals only received what teachers received which is 2.6% for the biennium. However, we are going to confirm what we suspect and that is that assistant principals are eligible for the local supplemen
t allocation as well.
Non-Certified employees will receive a $1,500 bonus and a new minimum wage increase of $13 in year one and $15 beginning in year two of the biennium.
Retirees will receive a cost-of-living bonus (not raise) of 2% in year one and 3% in year two of the biennium.
PENC will be writing back shortly to explain the calendar for the legislators this short session year, and we will lay out any new additional priorities the legislative committee and board approves.