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Former Gov. Hunt leaves group pushing change in NC teacher pay and licensing

Jim Hunt on the campaign trail 1992.
Kenneth C. Zirkel
/
CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>
Jim Hunt is seen on the campaign trail 1992.

Former Gov. James Hunt has withdrawn as co-chair of a group being formed to promote changes in the way North Carolina's teachers are licensed and paid.

Hunt, a Democrat, was known for his advocacy for public education during his 16 years as governor. He had agreed to join former Gov. James Martin, a Republican, as honorary co-chair of a group called UpliftEd, which is being formed to promote a new licensure and pay system for public school teachers.

That push has stirred controversy since a draft plan was presented to the state Board of Education this spring. The draft calls for creating several levels of licensure, allowing people with only an associate's degree to start as apprentices and work toward full licensure while being coached by more experienced colleagues. Advanced levels of licensing would bring higher pay, based on effectiveness ratings and additional duties.

Proponents say the "Pathways to Excellence" plan, which is still being crafted, would open doors for more teachers — especially people of color — to enter the profession and would bring recognition and higher pay for top educators.

The North Carolina Association of Educators opposes that approach. It's pushing alternative means to increase pay and recruit teachers.

Signing on and backing off

On June 21, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher and NCAE board member Justin Parmenter did a blog post about public records that showed a team of political, education and business leaders was being recruited to promote the "Pathways to Excellence" plan, with Hunt and Martin having signed on as honorary co-chairs.

A June 29 post included a memo from the Raleigh-based public relations firm Eckel & Vaughn outlining a promotion strategy that would culminate with the publication of an opinion piece from Hunt and Martin that would bring "even greater legitimacy" to the plan, especially among the legislators who ultimately have to approve and pay for it.

Today, Parmenter posted a letter from Hunt to state Board of Education Chair Eric Davis, dated July 5, saying he had decided to step down as honorary co-chair of UpliftEd and "from almost all of my public activities."

Davis and a spokesperson for Hunt both confirmed the legitimacy of the letter to WFAE.

Hunt, who served as governor from 1977 to 1985 and again from 1993 to 2001, notes that he is 85 and thinks it's time to "step aside and encourage new generations of leaders to step forward." He writes that he is no longer working actively with The Hunt Institute, which he founded to study and improve education policy.

Views on teacher voice and pay

Hunt’s letter also urges Davis to make sure teachers get “a strong say in the development of major changes to their compensation."

"Their involvement is critically important to the long-term success of any education reform," Hunt writes.

He also urges the state board to ensure that National Board certification remains "an important component" in teacher pay. The current pay scale, which is based on experience and credentials, awards a 12% pay hike to teachers who attain the credential.

The April presentation on the draft "Pathways to Excellence" plan did not mention board certification.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.