RALEIGH (April 26, 2023) – School started in North Carolina this year with more than 5,000 teacher vacancies in K-12 public schools.
So North Carolina is allegedly worried about recruiting more teachers to the profession.
But is it serious?
As legislators pat themselves on the back over a budget proposal passed this month by the state House, that budget would offer K-12 teachers in North Carolina a starting salary of $38,570.1
Yet a year ago, Alabama passed a teacher pay plan for the current budget year that granted starting teachers there a salary of $43,358.2 That’s 12% more than the starting pay the NC House proposes for starting North Carolina teachers next year.
What do Republican legislators in Alabama get that Republican legislators in North Carolina profoundly don’t?
We realize there’s a NASA space flight center in Huntsville, but did Alabama somehow enter the 21st century before North Carolina did?
And last we checked, it’s more expensive to live in North Carolina than in Alabama.
TO BE SURE, the House budget – should it become law – would increase average pay among K-12 teachers in North Carolina to $62,650 over two years. That’s an overall raise over more than 10%.3
The House budget also would provide an additional $70 million, for a total of $240 million, for salary supplements in 95 counties (all but Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Wake, Durham, Buncombe and Guilford).4 That could raise starting teachers’ pay further, but those supplements are yet to be calculated by school districts.
Starting pay for North Carolina teachers is not a new problem.
Education advocacy group BEST NC calculated starting teacher pay adjusted for cost of living based on 2020-21 budget figures – before Alabama made its aggressive move last year to increase teacher pay – and found that North Carolina lagged all Southern states save West Virginia even then.
GOV. ROY COOPER’S budget proposal, by contrast, would raise average teacher pay to more than $68,000 by 2024-25 and move North Carolina to 16th nationally in average teacher pay.
And it would increase starting teacher pay to $46,000 by 2024-25.
A group of prominent NC CEOs pointed out this month that North Carolina must solve its teacher shortage if it has any hope to prepare young readers and a 21st-century workforce.
“We must have effective teachers equipped with a firm understanding of how young children learn to read, and we need those teachers in every classroom,” Huntley Garriott, President of Wilmington-based Live Oak Bank, said two weeks ago at the group’s gathering.
“Having those teachers in every classroom is going to be difficult because we have a very real teacher shortage,” he said.
Even 40 days into this school year, the state did not have certified teachers in more than 5,000 classrooms – an increase of 58% over last year, Garriott said. And enrollment in the state’s colleges of education dropped by 24% from 2021 to 2022.
So again, what don’t we get?
“We need to avoid playing catch-up in the future,” said Jim Hansen, Regional President of PNC Financial Services.
Hansen was speaking of state support for NC Pre-K and the need for regular inflation adjustments for child care and pre-school workers.
But he could have said the same thing about starting pay for K-12 teachers.
Brad Swearingen says
Please don’t forget about the payrate of community college faculty. It will be lower than the K-12 teacher pay once these raises are instituted. COLLEGE teachers making less than K-12 teachers!!!! Come on NC legislators, pay these community college teachers appropriately for their work, their education, their training, their work experience, and for the fact that they are training the next generation of workforce in North Carolina. The time is now or NC will continue to fall behind. Especially in Wake County where a CC teacher can’t afford to buy a house in the same county in which they live.