Editorial: Run NC like a business - Adopt plan to boost public educator pay, stick to it

Posted March 14

Millbrook history teacher Brian Schneiderwind (Photo by Jess Clark / WUNC)

A CBC Editorial: Tuesday, March 14, 2017; Editorial # 8134
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger says that he’s running North Carolina’s biggest business, our public schools, “based on business principles.” The reality is far from it. It is time our public schools’ board of directors, the General Assembly, takes a truly professional approach.

Any business management consulting firm examining the way our public schools operate would conclude that the employees are vastly underpaid. When no one debates our 50th in the nation rank in principal pay – 50th! that’s a problem. It’s embarrassing. Teacher pay ranks 41st in the nation, and that’s certainly no way to run a successful business.

North Carolina must do better. Like any other business looking to compete and be the best, North Carolina public schools need to have a nationally competitive teacher and principal compensation plan.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget proposal is a move in the right direction -- to be the best in the Southeast in three years and at the national average in five – recognizing that those exact figures will change over time. Teachers on every step of the salary schedule get a pay boost. Those with the most experience are valued, not penalized as under previous legislative compensation plans.

Cooper’s budget includes a $20 million plan that would boost the pay of school principals and assistant principals 6.5 percent next year and 2 percent after that, along with raises and a bonus program for other permanent state-funded school employees.

Top state Senate leaders have proposed a convoluted $13.7 million plan to boost principal and assistant principal pay through a series of bonuses – some of which would be awarded at the discretion of local system superintendents. While performance bonuses aren’t necessarily a bad idea, when salaries are in the basement, they first need to be improved to a realistic rate, no strings attached.

The chief weakness in both Cooper’s and the Senate’s plan, is reliance on the State Education Lottery to pay for ongoing salaries. Lottery funds should be used as originally intended, for supplemental education spending – not to supplant funding for ongoing education needs. Funding educator salaries out of lottery funds is just flat-out wrong.  Don’t do it.

Legislative leaders have been crowing a lot lately about the budget surplus, with plenty of money set aside to fund the state’s teacher and principal pay needs.

Our state and students need and deserve top notch schools. To have them, teachers and principals need to be paid appropriately. Like any other well-run business, there needs to be a plan to bring educators’ pay to the national average.  Otherwise our legislative leaders are failing in their boast to run state public education as a business.

After all, it’s not what you say, but what you do.


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  • Greg Ford Mar 15, 2017
    user avatar

    Teddy, let's look at the facts. Please consider this graphic of Average Teacher Pay in NC Adjusted for Inflation, from the 1999-00 to 2015-16 academic years:
    Yes - average teacher pay decreased over time in the final years D's were power. However, that trend worsened after the R's became the majority party in the NCGA beginning with the 2011 session, compounded far worse as surrounding states increased teacher and principal pay while NC did little in those years. Salaries never even returned to when D's controlled the legislature years earlier. I was a principal in Wake during this transition and afterwards, and while my own salary didn't change for years, I was far more concerned with my - and my colleagues' - ability to recruit and retain the best teachers for our students. Salary matters. We need to invest in our childrens' education by investing in our educators.

  • Mary Jones Mar 15, 2017
    user avatar

    We got good pay raises throughout the Jim Hunt years (Democrat), even got to the national average.Then we hit the recession and everything came to a halt. I think everyone (according to a recent poll) is ready for teachers' salaries to be addressed regardless of the party in power. That means ALL teachers, by the way...not just those who teach STEM subjects...

  • Teddy Fowler Mar 14, 2017
    user avatar

    Republicans have only been in control of the legislative branches since 2010 (the first time since Reconstruction)... it was the Democrats who rarely gave teachers pay raises throughout the years.... now since Republicans are in control... everybody is yelling and screaming at the Republicans to fix the problem as if they were the cause of it.....