The North Carolina Senate voted Thursday in favor of a new bill that could give teachers higher pay raises than what had been in previous legislation.
The lawmakers voted 28-21 for Senate Bill 354. The bill will now be transferred to the House.
“Nobody believes the governor’s cheap rhetoric about teacher pay anymore. He has yet another opportunity to sign or veto a teacher raise," Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said. “If he signs it, Republicans will have delivered the sixth and seventh consecutive teacher pay increases. If he vetoes it, teachers will be the only ones in the state who get nothing. It’s time for him decide what he’s for and what he’s against.”
The Senate also could hold a vote Thursday on whether to override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of the overall spending plan. Such a vote has been placed on the legislative calendar every week since the late June veto.
Cooper vetoed the bill because it excluded a $2 billion Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and included lower raises for teachers that he wanted. The governor’s budget included a 9 percent pay raise for teachers, while the Republican budget allocated a 3.8 to 3.9 percent raises over the next two years.
What teachers actually will receive is still to be determined.
The first part of the bill approved Wednesday replicates the same pay raise included in the vetoed bill. A second part gives teachers a 4.4 percent raise, support staff, University of North Carolina System and community college employees a 4 percent raise over the next two years. But it will only take effect if the original spending bill becomes law.
Cooper criticized the bill filed by Republicans on Twitter before the vote Thursday.
“Republican leaders hold teachers hostage. Demand sweeping corporate tax breaks and their entire bad budget in exchange for paltry teacher pay raises that are less than other state employees,” Cooper wrote.
The House on Wednesday also voted in favor of step raises for teachers. The funds were frozen during the budget blockade.
The Teacher Step Act will retroactively pay teachers and other instructors $3,500 to $5,200 more depending on how many years they've worked in addition to the raise included in the budget or the new bill.