Truitt proposes using COVID-19 relief funds to bridge principal pay

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State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt has proposed a solution to the principal pay gap in North Carolina — use COVID-19 relief funds to bridge the gap.

In a proposal released Aug. 24, Truitt recommended drawing from the federal Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief III fund to cover the extra salary cost for principals. The move is in response to a provision in the new state budget that ties principal pay to one year of school performance data — from 2021-2022 — rather than the traditional three years.

Although the change positively impacted some principals, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction estimates that around 360 principals — or 15% — would receive pay cuts ranging from $7,200 to $18,000 over 12 months. Those principals operated schools with a history of high performance prior to the pandemic, making the drop in performance during the COVID era particularly significant.

“Principals were given a monumental load during the pandemic, as they were tasked with leading our schools in the midst of ever-changing circumstances that included students and teachers shuffling in and out of quarantine while classrooms alternated between virtual and in-person,” said Truitt in a statement. “We are thrilled that we can hold our principals harmless given the incredibly challenging and extenuating circumstances that the pandemic brought to our schools.”

“This is what exceptional leaders do,” said Dr. Terry Stoops, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation. “Rather than try to score political points or bellyache about unfavorable circumstances, Superintendent Truitt and her staff worked diligently to solve the principal pay issue. Once again, Superintendent Truitt proves that she is one of the best problem solvers in state government.”

The plan will be considered by the N.C. State Board of Education on Sept. 1. DPI estimates the total price tag will amount to $4.5 million.

Truitt added that the funds are available because of careful management on the part of DPI.

“Our agency is fortunate to have funding that we can use,” Truitt said. “We have been fiscally responsible with ESSER funding and made smart and strategic decisions when deciding what and where to spend. It’s because of those early decisions that we are able to bring forward a plan that ensures no principal’s pay is negatively affected as a result of a period of time when schools and students were doing their best, and principals were leading with resiliency and resolve to help their students and teachers recover from the pandemic.”

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