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Senate Principal Pay Proposal Differs From House Plan; NCASA Continues Advocacy On Bonus Fix For High-Performing Principals

By Katherine Joyce, NCASA Executive Director

The N.C. Senate’s budget proposal includes a pay increase and bonus package for principals that differs significantly from the proposal approved earlier by the N.C. House, which had followed recommendations for salary structural changes championed by the N.C. Association of School Administrators (NCASA). The Senate plan adds $16.3 million in both years for principal pay, with $15 million going to the base salary of principals, which NCASA has encouraged and appreciates. This would provide an average increase of $4,650 or 6.2%, effective July 1, 2019.

Senate budget writers chose to leave the current principal salary schedule mostly unchanged, except for an adjustment of the ADM tiers to reflect small schools of under 200 students and larger schools with more than 1,600 students. They also keep the current performance bonus in place for principals whose schools are in the Top 50% of growth, but eliminated the option for a “double bonus” for principals in the Top 50% of growth whose schools receive a D or F performance grade.

During the Senate Appropriations Committee’s discussion of their budget on Wednesday, NCASA Executive Director Katherine Joyce was called on by Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairs to discuss the status of the double bonus issue. She mentioned NCASA’s ongoing requests to get lawmakers to authorize DPI to release existing funds before June 30 to retroactively pay approximately 90 principals across the state who moved their D or F school performance grade to C or higher for 2017-2018. These fantastic school improvements unfairly made these principals ineligible for double awards paid in 2018, due to restrictive language in the current state budget law. In follow-up discussions with Senate budget writers, NCASA is continuing to seek legislation separate from the state budget bill to release these “catchup bonus” funds prior to June 30, when DPI must return any leftover bonus funds to the state.

The Senate proposal retains salary hold-harmless protections to keep individual principal pay at 2016-17 levels, if that amount would be higher than the amount the proposed 2019-20 salary schedule would provide. Finally, Senators propose a $1.3 million new incentive program in which up to 40 principals whose schools have exceeded growth can receive a $30,000 annual salary supplement for 3 years if they move to a low-performing school in the bottom 5% of the state. This would create a new $90,000 recruiting incentive for a high-performing principal to take over a struggling school.

Under the House plan, principals would receive an average 10% pay increase of roughly $7,500 in the first year of the biennium, but would earn that higher pay rate for only half a year due to the proposed effective date of January 1, 2020. The annual cost for this plan is $24 million, requiring a $12 million increased state investment in 2019-20. The most significant change proposed in the House’s salary structure for principals is to add an experience factor to base pay. Principals would earn 25% more than the annualized amount for their years of experience listed on the Teacher “A” schedule. School size and whether the school met or exceeded growth the previous year would also factor into the principal’s salary. The House plan also retains the Top 50% performance bonus, including an adjusted double bonus option for Top 50% principals whose schools were D or F in one of the last two years, while also keeping hold-harmless protections tying back to the 2016-17 salary level if higher.

The two chambers also differ in their pay proposals for Assistant Principals. The House would spend $4 million in 2019-2020, annualized to $8 million the following year, to provide them an average increase of 6.3% or $3,700, effective January 1, 2020. This would include step movement and increasing their differential over teachers from 19% to 20%.

Under the Senate budget, Assistant Principals would see an average increase of $740 or 1.25%, effective July 1, 2019, and an additional $1,450 or 2.5% in 2020-2021. The state’s costs would be $850,000 the first year of the biennium and $1.7 million in the second year.

Since the Senate is expected to give its budget proposal final approval tomorrow, with its pay plan for principals and assistant principals contrasting with the House plan, negotiators from both chambers will then begin trying to iron out the differences to determine the final pay package for these school-based administrators, as well as other educators. Lawmakers hope to have the final budget approved and signed into law by June 30. In the meantime, NCASA will continue our advocacy with the House and Senate to urge adoption of the most favorable pay increases and beneficial salary structural changes to help support our hardworking school administrators across the State.

Katherine Joyce