My colleague Terry Stoops and I have frequently railed about how North Carolina pays teachers based largely on years of service and not on results in the classroom. That we have a system in need of fixing is no secret. One way to help remedy current problems is to tie teacher pay to job performance. This year’s state budget proposal includes three provisions to move things in a positive direction.

The Growth-Based Teacher Bonus Program is a $5 million dollar program that provides reading and math teachers who are in the top 25 percent of teachers — according to EVAAS Student Growth  —  bonuses of up to $2,000.  These are bonuses, not compensation. As such the bonuses are not subject to the requirements of the state retirement system.

Bonuses for Principals
Also included in the proposed state budget are bonuses for principals whose school places in the top 50 percent of school growth in the state during the previous year.  Bonuses are tiered to performance. For example, principals whose school places in the top 5 percent would be awarded a $15,000 bonus. Those in the top 10 percent, a $10,000 bonus; the top 15 percent $5,000 bonus, the top 20 percent, $2,500. Those principals whose schools placed in the top 50 percent of school growth would earn a $1,000 bonus.

Principal Salary Schedule
The budget continues a Principal Salary Schedule that bases salary on school size and awards additional pay based on whether the school “Met Growth” or “Exceeded Growth” benchmarks. A principal is considered to have “Met Growth” or “Exceeded Growth” if the school met or exceeded school growth scores in two of the last three years. This year’s proposed schedule would update salary figures in each size category. For example, last year a principal at a small school who “Exceed Growth” would have earned $83,794. This year they would earn $87,145. Likewise, last year principals at large schools – greater than 1,600 students – who “Exceeded Growth” targets would earn $104,742. This year principals who do the same would earn $108,931, a figure more than $18,000 over their base salary of $90,776.

Small County and Low Wealth Signing Bonuses for Teachers
In order to ensure small county and low wealth schools can attract quality teachers, lawmakers have created a program in their budget proposal that provides a signing bonus of up to $2,000 for teachers. The program provides for matching every local dollar, with state funds up to $1,000.

Teacher Pay has been a perennial issue in North Carolina in part because it’s a system that doesn’t work. Pay is linked — not to job performance, like other professions — but largely to time on the job. This must change, for the sake of our students, teachers and taxpayers. Will bonus programs provide sufficient incentives for teachers or principals to improve schools? We don’t know yet, but we’ll find out. Yes, bonus programs stop short of a direct link. Still, they represent a step — albeit a modest one — in the right direction.