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NC teachers protest law ending pay raise for a master's degree

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GREENSBORO -- Educators across the state are fired up over last month's decision by lawmakers to do away with automatic pay raises for public school teachers who earn a master's degree.

"I think it's a slap in the face to anyone who is getting their master's degree," Archdale Elementary School teacher Christopher Tuft said.

Tuft has one year left in his degree program, set to graduate in May. But with the new law, he will not be grandfathered in to receive his supplemental salary.

"If I'm not able to get my supplement, then my family is probably going to have to move to another state in order to survive financially," Tuft said.

It is a move the North Carolina Association of Educators is concerned about.

"You're eliminating one of the incentives to encourage people to go back and master their craft," Rodney Ellis, president of the N.C. Association of Educators said. "I just think it's a travesty."

The state is arguing that teachers should be rewarded based on performance, rather than credentials. But colleges and universities predict this will have a significant negative impact on enrollment.

"I think it will ultimately affect our program," said Colleen Fairbanks, department chair for Teacher and Higher Education at UNCG. "We expect probably some reduction."

Institutions like UNCG's School of Education is rushing to cram in more fall classes to help students near completion graduate early.

"If they finish in December, they're just barely gonna make it because of the time it takes to get the license and to get the pay on their salaries," Fairbanks said.

That means graduate students who are just getting started will not make the deadline and could affect future educators' decision to go back to school in North Carolina.

"If I was in the position right now where I was just starting, I certainly wouldn't start my master's degree right now," Tuft said.

For now, educators will continue to speak out at rallies like this hoping for change.

Educators at the "Red for Ed" rally said they are hoping November will bring newly elected candidates to the General Assembly who can reverse this decision and bring back the added financial incentive of a master's degree.

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