RALEIGH – We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Teacher pay in North Carolina is headed in the right direction.
The National Education Association released estimates in March that indicate average pay for North Carolina’s K-12 public school teachers now stands at $53,975, ranking North Carolina 29th among the states.1
That’s an increase of 5.4% over 2017-18 and a jump of five spots from the state’s previous ranking of 34th.
It’s an even more impressive move since 2013-14, when North Carolina ranked an appalling 47th in teacher pay. Average teacher pay in North Carolina has climbed nearly 20% in five years and now ranks second in the Southeast, trailing Georgia by $3,162.2
Yes, averages can be misleading.
Skeptics like to point out that average teacher pay includes an average of $4,580 in supplements paid by local school systems, and that only 12 of the state’s 115 school districts provide the average supplement or more. State legislators shouldn’t claim credit for local systems that stepped up to fill gaps in state support, they say.3
NEA also calculates that despite repeated raises in recent years, NC teachers actually made 9.2% less in 2017-18 than in 2008-09 after adjusting for inflation.4 And average pay for NC teachers still trails the national average of $61,730 by $7,755.5
But the point is we’re moving in the right direction – and we shouldn’t stop.
With legislators now negotiating a final state budget for the next two years, it’s a good time to review the proposals to date:
- Governor Roy Cooper proposed average teacher raises of 9.1% over two years in his budget recommendation to legislators, with every teacher receiving at least 3%. Cooper also proposes raises for veteran teachers and restoration of higher pay for teachers with master’s degrees, which was eliminated in 2013.
- State Superintendent Mark Johnsonhas proposed raising teacher pay by 5% to 7% in each of the next two years.6
- The NC Housewould offer teachers average raises of 4.6% in each of the next two years. The first raise would take effect Jan. 1, 2020, and would be skewed toward more-senior teachers. The House also proposes restoration of pay supplements for teachers with master’s degrees.7
- The NC Senateproposes average raises of 3.5% over two years for teachers. Those with 15-24 years of experience also would receive annual bonuses of $500 a year, and teachers with 25 or more years of experience would receive annual bonuses of $1,000.8
North Carolina has made considerable progress with teacher pay – but we can’t stop now.
Wherever they land, state officials need to continue the push to make teacher compensation respectable in North Carolina and keep the best instructors in our classrooms. Our children’s futures – and our collective economic future – depend on it.
But it’s not just about teacher pay.
When thousands of teachers marched in Raleigh on May 1, they called for legislators to provide enough psychologists, social workers, counselors and nurses to meet national standards.9
Even as the state climbs in comparisons of teacher pay, that’s one reason North Carolina remains near the bottom in the Southeast by another measure: Spending per student.
Of course money must be deployed efficiently. But research finds that in general, the more money a state or locality devotes not just to teachers but the entire school environment, the better the results.
How Money Matters, a 2017 report from the Learning Policy Institute, summarizes a growing body of research that finds correlations between per-pupil spending and student outcomes – particularly for low-income students.
“Does money matter? Yes,” the report says. “On average, aggregate per-pupil spending is positively associated with improved student outcomes.
“The size of this effect is larger in some studies than in others, and, in some cases, additional funding appears to matter more for some students than for others—in particular students from low-income families who have access to fewer resources outside of school. Clearly, money must be spent wisely to yield benefits. But, on balance, in direct tests of the relationship between financial resources and student outcomes, money matters.”10
5http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/2019%20Rankings%20and%20Estimates%20Report.pdf, p. 49.
7https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article229940814.html; https://www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2019/Budget/2019/AllCommitteeReport_ForFloor_2019_05_01.pdf, p. B18; https://webservices.ncleg.net/ViewBillDocument/2019/4239/0/H966-PCS10621-MGxfap-6, p. 79.
9https://www.fayobserver.com/opinion/20190502/our-view-teachers-goals-are-about-more-than-salary; https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article229849024.html; https://www.wral.com/nc-teachers-group-unhappy-with-legislative-budget-proposals/18443544/.