Editorial: Reality is 'average' teacher pay bypasses most N.C. teachers

Posted August 29, 2016

The truth is teachers still think about our students during the summer break. Here are a few things you can do with your child during the summer that any teacher would approve of. (Deseret Photo)

A CBC Editorial: Monday, Aug. 29, 2016; Editorial# 8048
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

Public school teachers in North Carolina must be sitting pretty. At least it’s easy to get that impression from the political ads and campaign statements.

Ads for Republican incumbents tout that they’ve given North Carolina public school teachers an “average” raise of 4.7 percent and increased “average” pay above $50,000.

Teachers should be happy and we should feel education is getting a priority focus to lift our schools from the bottom tier in the national rankings.

Why then do many people – school leaders, teachers and parents – remain skeptical?

Because North Carolina is not Lake Wobegon. Not all teachers get the “average” pay increase and a majority of them are NOT paid above the average. An "average" calculation can be misleading.

The reality is that “average pay” is NOT what the “average teacher” (in terms of job experience and duties) receives – not even close.

Last year, about two-thirds of North Carolina’s public school teachers were paid LESS than the “average.” The divide between the many teachers who make less than the average and the minority who make more is likely to grow because of pay scale adjustments, local supplements and teacher turnover.

How could this be? First, that $50,000 the commercials boast about is not all state money. Local pay supplements and bonuses make up a significant chunk. Those supplements vary wildly depending upon the school district. A teacher in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools will receive the highest “average” supplement in the state. Meanwhile some districts like Halifax County don’t provide any salary supplement to teachers.

The supplements aren’t paid across the board either – teachers can receive more, or less, depending upon experience, additional educational achievement or duties.

How is the $50,000 “average” teacher pay explained? Simple, some say. Just take last year’s statewide average pay, $47,931, add the 4.7 percent “average” pay increase in the state budget – and there it is.

But it is just not that simple. There are as many as 10 other variables that go into teacher pay. And those variables can be very different depending on the school district, a teacher’s experience, and more.

North Carolina voters deserve to know more about teacher pay than a convenient, “average” that fits well into a soundbite or a slick TV ad graphic -- but disguises a deeper truth about public education spending.

Wonder what the "average teacher pay is just using state funds?

Wonder what the "median" teacher pay is using just state funds?

We’ll keep asking and searching for answers.

SEE THIS: N.C. Association of Educators President Mark Jewell discusses public school teacher pay.


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  • Skip Harris Aug 30, 2016
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    You do realize that your argument actually strengthens his point, right? Under the time of Democrat control inflation was above 2% but has flattened since and cost of living has followed a similar curve. The actual teacher salary under Democrat control was actually negative. Under the Republicans, even adjusting for inflation and COL it is positive. The Republicans in the legislature have done many stupid things but it stretched credulity to lay the woes of teachers at their feet.

  • Ben Hill Aug 29, 2016
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    Well said. It amazes me that our society will justify spending top dollar on frivolous wants, like attracting a big name athlete to our sport teams, but we get cheap and complain about pay increases to those entrusted with educating our future generation.

  • Brendan Dillon Aug 29, 2016
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    Adjusted for inflation and cost of living changes, no, it really isn't.

  • Brendan Dillon Aug 29, 2016
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    Sounds like it's time for these teachers to give the legislature a lesson on the difference between mean, median and mode, and how each should be used in statistical analysis.

  • Raleigh Rose Aug 29, 2016
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    Spend a few days in a classroom you would change your tune. I taught for a couple of years and left the profession because the pay was so low, the amount of time worked came nowhere near what little you were getting paid and as much as I loved the kids, it just wasn't feasible. It's an odd mix of a rewarding and at the same time, thankless job. But I would challenge anyone that says teachers whine, get paid enough or have it easy to spend some time in their shoes.
    We want good schools and our children educated, but we don't want to pay to attract the best teachers. As long as we have that attitude, nothing will change. I think our kids are worth the money.

  • William James Aug 29, 2016
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    The reason NC State Government is being so deceptive is that it has never paid or budgeted to pay its workers equally across the state and cost of living isn't used at all in determining pay. Also, they know teachers tend to be well established and far less likely to leave their jobs, like those in more lucrative occupations.

  • Justin Briller Aug 29, 2016
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    It's more than what the democrats offered under their control.

  • Will Sonnett Aug 29, 2016
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    Duh! There's a reason they call it "average".

  • Mike Luddy Aug 29, 2016
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    I've never heard of a group that whined as much as teachers. Don't tell me - they're the next group to officially be awarded "victim" status. I wish we could go back to the JFK quote - "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country". It was a happier time. We're at our best when we're in service to others.