State News

NC has fewer teachers and more students

Posted December 4, 2013
Updated December 5, 2013

— Almost 17,200 additional students packed into North Carolina schools this year while the number of teachers dropped, according to new payroll data, leading to what some say are larger class sizes that inhibit learning.

There were 95,725 teachers working with more than 1.5 million students after the normal churn of the new academic year settled down in October, said Philip Price, the state Department of Public Instruction's chief finance officer.

The payroll and enrollment figures for the current year come as the state Board of Education opened its monthly two-day meeting Wednesday with an annual report on teacher turnover during the school year that concluded in May.

The additional 17,200 students in public schools this year represents about a 1 percent increase over last year. But with static teacher employment levels, the state's schools are about 740 teachers short of what would be needed if the extra 17,200 students were divided into classrooms of 23 each, Price said. That ultimately means class sizes will have to be larger to accommodate the additional students, which reduces one-on-one time with students, makes it more difficult for teachers to be effective and can cause student performance to suffer, said Karey Harwood, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Public Schools First NC.

A similar trend was underway over the previous five years, according to previous reports. North Carolina's 115 local school districts have added 45,071 students since the 2009-10 school year and gained only 348 teachers over the same five-year period. That isn't enough teachers to accommodate the student boom, meaning more students in every classroom, Harwood said.

"Although in any one year the snapshot may not be incredibly significant, I think the students probably feel the difference in their classrooms," said Harwood, who has three school-age children. Bigger classrooms "can make a big impact on how much attention the students receive, how much differentiation can take place in the classroom based on differing abilities. If there are any behavior issues in the classroom, that makes it doubly challenged to try to meet the needs of that many kids."

This year's state budget increased spending on public schools to $7.9 billion — $117 million less than Gov. Pat McCrory's budget office projected would be needed to account for increased enrollment, inflation and other factors.

The enrollment growth of around 1 percent was about the level state lawmakers forecast when they prepared the budget last summer, said Sen. Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville, the chamber's No. 2 Republican.

"It's pretty much what was expected," he said. "It fits right in about where we were."

Rep. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes, and Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, top budget-writers who focus on education issues, did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The school payroll data shows that reduced state teacher funding this year has been at least partly offset by more teacher salaries picked up by local taxpayers, DPI's Price said. There were 589 fewer state-paid teachers in October than the same time last year, while teachers paid by local sources increased by 529, he said. That ultimately means there were about 60 fewer teachers statewide.

The annual teacher turnover report to the state Board of Education said 13,616 teachers left their jobs during 2012-2013, primarily to teach somewhere else.

The statewide rate of 14 percent of teachers leaving their jobs was an increase from the previous year's turnover of 12 percent and 11 percent in 2010-11. Increasingly, the teachers leaving have worked long enough to earn job security, called tenure. About half the teachers quitting last year had tenure, a percentage that has risen each year from 35 percent in 2008-2009.

About 7 percent of those leaving last year blamed it on a decision to change careers or because they were dissatisfied with teaching, about the same as the previous year.

The report was released a month after teachers held demonstrations around the state to protest other legislative changes they complain created higher workloads, falling buying power and lost job security.

Salaries for North Carolina teachers are among the lowest in the country, down from the middle of the pack before the Great Recession hit with force five years ago. Teachers have received one across-the-board pay raise in that time — a 1.2 percent bump last year — as lawmakers coped with pinched state revenues or shifted money to other priorities.

Republicans who control the Legislature are promising they'll increase teacher pay next year, a move which carries a potential cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.


Emery Dalesio can be reached at


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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Dec 5, 2013

    mike275132, you may want to actually look at the numbers comparing performance of public & private schools?...because they’re *surprising similar. (*maybe a surprise to you)

    And, that’s with an uneven playing field, since private schools can legally exclude “problem” children, the poor, the handicapped, special needs children (blind, deaf, autistic), etc.

    Private schools can also exclude any child of a *parent* that they don’t like or want. (e.g. you don’t make enough money, your beliefs don’t match our beliefs, you don’t spend enough time doing homework with your child)

    Meanwhile, public schools must take *everyone*.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Dec 5, 2013

    mike275132 said, “If you care about your child's education = Private School”

    Thank you for proving my point that many Conservatives work hard to destroy public schools, so they can say exactly what you have.

  • Plenty Coups Dec 5, 2013

    rebelyell-"There was a link earlier where you could go to see who getting what pay. It was pretty obvious that the administration is over loaded and over paid."

    Perhaps, but it's really a drop in the bucket. NC spends less on administration and other support services than all but 2 other states.

  • Krimson Dec 5, 2013

    Immaannoid: "Maybe we should not let illegal aliens in our schools?"

    Well that takes care of 1% of 1%. Anymore big money saving ideas???

  • xylem01 Dec 5, 2013

    Maybe we should not let illegal aliens in our schools?immaannoid

    If the children are born in the US they are not illegal. Also, just because you have a hispanice name or appear Hispanic DOES NOT MEAN you are illegal!!!

  • wjcspanteach Dec 5, 2013

    BigAlSouth:Every teacher between a first year teacher and a 5 year teacher makes $35,189/month in Wake County. If you go to a lot of smaller counties that do not have the local supplement WCPSS offers its employees that amountis $30,800 (from steps 0-5). So, no, teachers do not get a raise every year as you claim. Your "FACT" is incorrect. Please see the links below to do some research. Secondly, the "raise" you mention between years 5 and 6 is $47.90/mth (or $2.18/day or $0.27/hr). The "raise" between 6 and 7 is $51.40/mth (or $2.33/day or $0.29/hr). Finally if you factor in hours ACTUALLY worked (since almost EVERY teacher works 3-4 hours daily, after school and on the weekends) it is even less. How would you like to work an addition 21 UNPAID hours a week (average)?
    WCPSS Salary Schedule --
    NC Salary schedule --

  • wjcspanteach Dec 5, 2013

    "I don't understand why the media continually misinforms the public about teachers compensation. FACT: Except for teachers with one year and three year's experience, every single teacher in North Carolina gets paid more the next year of service. A teacher raise is built into the statewide compensation schedule. This is in addition to the annual supplement that local school boards may authorize. Come on, media. Tell the truth. Teachers get a raise every year,unless you only have one year's experience and three year's experience."
    I hate to break this to you, but you are WRONG! FACT: Teachers' salaries have been frozen for 6 years. If you observe WCPSS' salary schedule, the salary is the same for steps 0 - 5. Each year with out a raise, that increase. In other words, next year, the step will be 0 -6. I have been teaching 13 years, I make exactly the same dollar amount in year 13 than I made in year 8. That is not a step increase.

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh Dec 5, 2013

    Teachers: don't be fooled when the Republican governor and general assembly members FINALLY offer you a raise just before the 2014 election. They have given you PLENTY of evidence already to safely say: they do NOT and WILL NEVER have your best interest in mind.

    Oh, and this just for a laugh: did you hear the one about the pathological liar who claims he brought 80,000 new jobs to NC in 2013?!?!

  • free2bme Dec 5, 2013

    I think this is to be expected with the disrespect and disregard the NC Legislature has shown our teachers. It is one thing not to give them a raise but to cut tenure, cut teacher assistants, and cut the Master's pay is just too much. They really want north carolinians to be uneducated and could care less that we have a crisis in NC when it comes to education. More teachers will likely leave and who can blame them.

  • BernsteinIII Dec 5, 2013

    Maybe we should not let illegal aliens in our schools?