Kirk Smith, the Republican chairman of the Lee County Board of Commissioners, said in an email obtained by The Rant that teachers in Lee County shouldn’t receive an increase in supplemental pay due to the “mediocre performance” by local public schools on North Carolina’s school report cards.

The email, dated April 23 and sent to other members of the Board of Commissioners, indicates that Lee County’s teacher supplement, $4,586, is well above the North Carolina average ($2,842), and the 14th highest of the state’s 115 school districts.

Smith then wrote that “Lee County’s data is not reflective of the substantial supplement we pay our teachers” and went on to list the grades earned by Lee County’s public schools on report cards for the 2019-2020 school year, noting one A grade, one B grade, nine C grades, and three D grades.

“In light of the rather mediocre performance, I really don’t see the need to increase the supplement. I suggest we keep it at the current rate allowing the schools to work on improving their performance,” Smith wrote.

Critics of the state’s school report card system have said that it’s more reflective of the economic demographics of its students than of the actual quality of teachers and schools.

Supplemental teacher pay is set by counties on top of the pay for educators that comes from the state and helps them to be competitive in recruiting teachers. The email was written about a month before The Sanford Herald reported that Lee County Schools Superintendent Dr. Andy Bryan requested supplement increases of 10 to 12 percent for certified employees and 5 percent for non-certified employees. Bryan noted at the time, according to the article, that it had been 21 years since coaches have received a supplement increase.

In the end, the decision about supplements will be made by the school board, which is given a lump sum by the county and then has to decide how to spend it.

Lee County’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2021-22 includes a 1.5 cent property tax decrease. The budget proposal includes a $378,000 increase in funding for the schools, which is below the $1.3 million increase the district has requested.