State Board of Education member John Tate wants the board to back a resolution to bring teacher pay in the state to the national average.
Tate sprung his proposal on the board this week, calling teacher pay "flat pathetic."
Teachers and state employees received one 1.2 percent raise in the last five years.
After years of concerted efforts to raise teacher to the national average, North Carolina was ranked 25th in 2008 by the National Education Association. The state has slipped since then, and is close to the bottom of national rankings.
"I feel like we have to send a message to our teachers as soon as possible," Tate said.
State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey said he and other board members want teachers to make more, but ruled consideration of his resolution out of order. Board members said they needed more background information and that the resolution should have been on the agenda. Cobey said the resolution could hold for a month.
Do legislators want to pay teachers more?
On that, Tate and Cobey didn't see eye to eye.
"The actions of our friends in the General Assembly run counter to the sentiments around this table," Tate said. "At the end of the day, we need to send a unified signal to our teaching ranks."
Legislators do want to give teachers raises, Cobey said, but were dealing with a down economy and other priorities.
"I don't know anyone who is not in favor of giving a substantial raise to our teachers," Cobey said.
The budget for next year does not include across-the-board raises for teachers or state employees. Legislators are moving to a system of performance pay for teachers. The budget offers $500 top teachers who give up their tenure and sign employment contracts.