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Governor signs bill giving $350 bonuses to teachers

RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has signed into law a K-12 educator pay bill that he says still fails to give what teachers and school staff need.

The measure, one of nine bills Cooper signed on Friday, provides $350 one-time bonuses by October to teachers and instructional support personnel along with their usual experience-based raises. For most teachers, that “step increase” on the salary schedule is $1,000.

The legislation also urges the Democratic governor to use COVID-19 relief funds to provide $600 more in bonuses to these teachers, as well as $600 to custodians and cafeteria workers. Cooper and the Republicans who drew up the bill disagree whether the relief money can be used that way.

“I signed this bill because it funds step increases for teachers that have already been promised, but it falls outrageously short on raises we need to give teachers and all school personnel like bus drivers and cafeteria workers,” Cooper said in a news release. He said he hoped the legislature would offer more when it reconvenes in September.

Democrats unsuccessfully pushed amendments to guarantee one-time bonuses of $1,250 to teachers and instructional support and $1,000 bonuses to non-instructional employees.

Other bills signed on Friday would fund new positions at expanding state parks, cover low-cost tuition at three University of North Carolina campuses and allow judges to sentence some non-violent drug traffickers below mandatory minimum sentence lengths and fines.

The “First Step Act” sentencing measure was one of two criminal justice reform bills introduced last year that Cooper signed this week. The ideas regained steam in recent weeks after demonstrations nationwide and in North Carolina against racial inequality following the death of George Floyd.

Cooper has more than 50 bills on his desk. He’ll have to decide over the next 10 days whether to sign them, veto them or let them become law without his signature.

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