RALEIGH (May 18, 2023) – It’s simply not enough.
The budget proposal released this week by the state Senate is simply not enough to improve public education in North Carolina. There’s an undeniable link between education and a skilled workforce. Yet state legislators don’t seem to get that.
At a time when average teacher pay in the state ranks 34th in the nation and pay for starting teachers ranks 46th, when the school year started without licensed teachers in 5,000 classrooms1 and enrollment in the state’s colleges of education dropped by 24% in a single year,2 the Senate budget would give K-12 teachers a paltry average pay increase of 4.5%.
That’s over two years. At a time when we all face as-yet-untamed inflation. And at a time the Senate proposes to spend more than $500 million on private school vouchers for students from any income level.3
The Senate budget does propose to raise pay for starting North Carolina teachers from $37,000 to $39,000, and to $41,000 in the budget’s second year4 – but even that is well less than the starting pay legislators in Alabama approved last year for starting teachers there.5
“We keep hearing that there’s a real problem as far as getting folks into the teaching profession,” Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger told reporters this week.6
Well thanks for the insight. Teacher attrition has only been a problem in North Carolina for a decade or more.
In contrast, the state House’s budget proposal would increase average pay for K-12 teachers to $62,650 – an increase of more than 10% – over two years.
And Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposal would raise average teacher pay to more than $68,000 in two years. It would raise starting teacher pay to $46,000 by 2024-25.7
The State Board of Education has also submitted a plan to revise teacher licensure and compensation that some think is the only way to achieve significant pay raises for North Carolina teachers. That plan was not included in either the House or Senate versions of the budget, however.
IN A WEBINAR TUESDAY on teacher pay sponsored by Higher Ed Works, state education leaders shared a variety of perspectives on teacher pay.
“If we want a new generation of educators to enter the field and become teacher leaders, we must pay them,” said Rachel Frye, the Southwest (NC) Teacher of the Year at East Lincoln High School in Denver, NC.
Frye said she felt valued in 1998 when she received an NC Teaching Fellows scholarship to attend NC State University.
“Right now, North Carolina is hemorrhaging talented educators across the border to South Carolina and Virginia. And sadly, within our own state, rural districts are losing talent to larger districts able to pay larger supplements – creating tremendous inequity among our 115 districts,” she said.
“The bottom line for me is that educators who are paid well will feel valued and will stay in the classroom.”
Jerry Wilson, the Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Center for Racial Equity in Education, noted that teachers are the most important school-related factor in students’ success.
“Our entire future depends on that investment,” he said.
The majority of students in North Carolina’s public schools today are students of color, yet the majority of teachers are white, he said. “Educators of color are very, very important,” he said.
Wilson also noted that research has found Black teachers inspire and improve performance, not solely among minority students, but among all students. “That impact is astronomical,” he said.
Don Martin, retired superintendent of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, noted that the Senate’s budget proposal would raise starting pay for teachers.
“North Carolina’s beginning teacher salary is simply not competitive – we rank 7th out of 8” in the Southeast, he said.
Mary Ann Wolf, executive director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina, said that college graduates who become educators make 24.5% less than graduates with similar levels of education.
“Teachers have such complex jobs … It takes all of a person to really get the job done,” Wolf said.
“What we’re not doing right now is we are not investing in our educators to be able to do what’s best for our students.”
Frye said her fellow teachers still have passion for their jobs, but they feel tired and frustrated at this point.
“We love our kids we want to stay. We want to help,” she said. Yet her colleagues “feel disrespected by the numbers.
“We constantly make miracles happen with very little,” she said. “What could we not do with adequate funding?”
To view the entire Higher Ed Works webinar on Fair Pay for NC K-12 Teachers, click here.