Legislative epiphany: Teacher pay hasn’t kept up

Published March 28, 2024

By Public Ed Works

A state House committee acknowledged this week what was painfully clear even two years ago: North Carolina’s pay for teachers hasn’t kept up with inflation.

The first words of the House Select Committee on Education Reform’s findings for the “short” session of the General Assembly that begins next month note that North Carolina continues to have trouble recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers.

The committee adopted the report Monday. It praises legislators for raising starting teacher salaries, steering funds to small and low-wealth counties and bonuses for student performance.

“However, the Committee finds that even with these significant investments, teacher compensation has still not kept up with the rising cost of living, the increasing employment opportunities for female, college-educated professionals, or the pay for other public sector employees,” the report says.

(Only a little bit sexist, right?)

“The Committee recognizes that North Carolina’s teacher compensation structure is not ensuring that hard-to-staff subject area positions and schools are sufficiently filled with highly qualified teachers.”

The committee makes a vague recommendation that the General Assembly “further assess compensation for teachers, as well as find ways to attract and retain teachers in hard-to-staff positions.”1

BUT THE NEEDS were clear two years ago, when the General Assembly granted K-12 teachers an average raise of 4.2% in the same month year-over-year inflation registered 9.1%.2 And at the same time the state had a $6.5 billion revenue surplus.

We called it what it was: A pay cut.3

It was as if state legislators lived in a world where food and gas prices never go up.

Meanwhile, the National Education Association ranked North Carolina 46th in starting teacher pay and 34th in average teacher pay last year.4

The state also started the current school year with more than 3,500 vacant teaching positions and an increased reliance on uncertified teachers.5

Is it that hard to connect those dots? We need to further raise teacher pay in North Carolina, and we need to do it yesterday.

THE COMMITTEE’S REPORT also recommends:

  • Expansion of the Advanced Teaching Roles program beyond its current 17 school districts to give teachers more opportunity for advancement without becoming administrators. The program pays master teachers more to take on additional roles and especially to mentor starting teachers.
  • Revised school performance grades. Each school currently receives a single A-F letter grade, based 80% on the results of standardized tests and 20% on students’ growth in those test scores.

    “The Committee recognizes that other states using an A-F model have a more balanced approach that relies less on student test scores,” the report says.

    “For example, North Carolina has math and reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) that are comparable to other states that use an A-F performance grade model, yet North Carolina has a significantly greater percentage of schools with D or F grades than those comparable states.”

    State Superintendent Catherine Truitt recommended a new formula where a school would receive separate grades for success in four categories: exams; growth in exam scores; preparation for post-secondary work, the military or college; and “opportunity” that would include extracurricular activities, school safety and chronic student absenteeism.

    The committee accepted Truitt’s four categories, but rather than assign separate grades in each, it recommended that the four factors continue to be averaged into a single letter grade.6

The committee’s recommendations will go only to the state House, not the skinflint Senate. We welcome legislators’ (or at least the House’s) recognition that North Carolina hasn’t kept up with pay for public school teachers to eke out a living while doing vital work for our people and our economy.

But North Carolina has lagged other Southern states (indeed, the country) in teacher pay for 10 years or more.

It shouldn’t take 10 years to recognize that fact and make corrections.


Wait – could this be an election year? 🤔

1 https://webservices.ncleg.gov/ViewDocSiteFile/86916, p. 15.
2 https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2022/consumer-prices-up-9-1-percent-over-the-year-ended-june-2022-largest-increase-in-40-years.htm.
3 https://publicedworks.org/2022/07/a-pay-cut/.
4 https://www.nea.org/resource-library/educator-pay-and-student-spending-how-does-your-state-rank/teacher.
5 https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article278765479.html.
6 https://webservices.ncleg.gov/ViewDocSiteFile/86916.