NC still well below national average in teacher pay, classroom funding rankings

The National Education Association has released its annual teacher pay rankings for 2018-19, and North Carolina still lags behind the national average. According to the new list, North Carolina ranks 34th in the country with an average teacher salary of $51,231 — over $8,000 less than the national average of $59,859.

But adjusted for inflation, teacher salaries nationwide are actually an average of 4.5% lower compared to 10 years ago. In fact, North Carolina’s average teacher salaries are 10.8% lower than 2008-09, when adjusted for inflation.

When it comes to classroom funding, our state spends $315 per student more than last year — but still $2,957 less than the national average. And unfortunately, North Carolina still ranks just 42nd in the nation for classroom funding.

All of that is a major reason why the Republican budget currently moving through the General Assembly simply doesn’t cut it when it comes to public schools. Regular readers of the Monday Memo know that the educators who marched in Raleigh on May 1 had five main demands which are widely popular among North Carolina voters, even Republicans:

  1. Provide enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national standards
  2. Provide a $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, 5% raise for all support staff, teachers, admins, and a 5% cost of living adjustment for retirees
  3. Expand Medicaid to improve the health of our students and families
  4. Reinstate state retiree health benefits eliminated by the General Assembly in 2017
  5. Restore advanced degree compensation stripped by the General Assembly in 2013

So how does the GOP budget do on those demands?

  • The budget provides $30 million to hire additional school mental health staff and school resource officers — just 4.6% of what would be needed to meet federal standards
  • No meaningful wage increase for support staff, and no cost of living adjustment for retirees. Salary increase for educators would not affect teachers with less than 16 years experience, and would not go into effect until next year.
  • No Medicaid expansion
  • No restoration of state retiree health benefits eliminated by the General Assembly in 2017
  • Does restore advanced degree compensation stripped by the General Assembly in 2013

So the Republican budget does almost nothing to meet educators’ demands. Then what DOES it do?

  • The House budget would give just $145 in one-time money to each teacher for purchasing classroom supplies — a far cry from what’s needed. The Senate proposal is even worse, giving $400 to each teacher by taking AWAY $37 million from local school district funding for classroom supplies.
  • The budget doubles down on the failure of online pilot schools by spending $1 million on a pilot program for a virtual preschool, an idea that drew some controversy last month
  • Bans educators from taking a personal day unless they’ve lined up a substitute, essentially banning future teacher marches
  • Expands eligibility for voucher program, removes accountability requirement

North Carolina needs a major investment in public education if we’re ever going to return to pre-recession funding levels — let alone catch up to other states. Unfortunately, the Republican budget does very little to get us there.

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Eleanore Wood

Digital Director

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