Senate Education Committee Passes Bill to Expand Teacher Bonus Program


Responding to feedback from local school districts, the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday advanced legislation that would award performance-based bonuses to more North Carolina public school teachers who helped improve student academic outcomes last school year.


Last year’s state budget created a $10 million bonus program for third grade teachers who help students achieve the greatest growth in learning how to read. It also included bonuses for Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) teachers whose students successfully complete AP or IB exams.


Senate Bill 169, sponsored by Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), Sen. Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston) and Sen. Trudy Wade (R-Guilford), would clarify and expand those programs to ensure teachers who achieved top scores last school year – but who have since been reassigned to other teaching roles in their schools – receive bonuses for which they would have otherwise been eligible. Local school administrators have told lawmakers that some high-performing teachers were inadvertently omitted from the first round of bonuses after they were asked to fill critical needs in other grades or courses.


“These are teachers who go above and beyond to help students succeed, and who our principals count on to accept new challenges and fulfill some of the most critical needs in our schools,” said Berger. “This bill ensures they receive the financial rewards they’ve earned for their outstanding performance and commitment to our students.”


Under the bill, eligible third grade reading teachers could receive up to $7,000, while AP and IB teachers could receive up to $2,000. The bill would also direct the Department of Public Instruction to reimburse local school districts that have already paid out bonuses to those teachers based on last year’s performance.


Already, more than 1,230 third grade reading teachers across North Carolina qualified for an approximately $3,500 bonus by having growth scores in the top 25 percent statewide, and more than 1,180 teachers qualified for an additional bonus by having growth scores in the top 25 percent in their local school systems. In some cases, teachers qualified to receive both the state and local bonuses.


Since 2013, the General Assembly has worked to reform what was an outdated teacher pay scale and ensure they have far greater earnings potential over the course of their careers – efforts that have resulted in average teacher pay climbing to $50,000 for the first time in state history. Lawmakers have also focused on ways to reward outstanding performance through merit-based compensation.