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Students at Southwest Guilford High School make their way to classes during the first day of the school year in August. The General Assembly earlier this month approved a new state budget that includes pay raises and bonuses for teachers.

HIGH POINT — School teachers received pay raises and bonuses in the recently enacted state budget two years after public employees were caught in the middle of partisan gridlock that left the state government operating on a stopgap spending plan.

After months of negotiations, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican leaders of the N.C. General Assembly settled earlier this month on a $25.9 billion state budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. A centerpiece of the budget is higher compensation for educators.

Public school teachers would receive an average raise of 5% in the state-provided portion of their pay during the next two years. The pay raises will vary with the longevity of state government employment.

All state employees and local school district employees will get $1,000 bonuses, and most teachers will receive a total bonus of $2,800 through federal funds, said Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, the Senate president pro tem.

The state budget also includes $100 million in recurring funds for a new state-funded teacher salary supplement focused on low-wealth counties to help them compete with wealthier counties when recruiting teachers, Berger’s office reports.

Berger’s office also says the budget will increase the minimum wage for all non-certified personnel and community college staff to $15 per hour beginning in 2022.

Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras detailed the impact of the state budget on the compensation of school district employees in an email earlier this week.

“We are glad to see a budget passed in North Carolina for the first time in several years, and we are even happier to see that education is a focal point,” Contreras writes in the email. “While this is a solid first step, we know the state of North Carolina still has a long way to go to fairly compensate educators for all that they do.”

The state pay raises and bonus payments come against the backdrop of the Guilford County Board of Education directing Contreras to formulate a plan to provide local bonuses. The board, in a 5-4 vote two weeks ago, asked Contreras to present a bonus plan at the next board meeting Dec. 14.

The state budget includes spending other than pay and bonuses meant to boost education, Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said.

“Additional funding in this budget allows us to progress in hiring more school psychologists, maintain statewide literacy training efforts and address the workforce demands of today and the future with a new computer science division at the department,” Truitt said.

Among the key state budget provisions cited by Truitt’s office are:

• An additional $1.5 billion more in recurring funds for kindergarten through 12th grade public school system

• $18 million for targeted assistance to low-performing schools and districts

• Fully funding a new division at the Department of Public Instruction for Computer Science and professional development for teachers

• More than $1 million in professional development funding for financial literacy training for all high school teachers

• $400,000 to address the backlog for drivers education statewide

• $36 million for grants for after-school and before-school programs, as well as $36 million for summer school extension programs

pjohnson@hpenews.com | 336-888-3528 | @HPEpaul