Education

NC ranks 35th in nation for teacher pay; 43rd in per-pupil spending

Posted May 10

— North Carolina ranks 35th in the nation for average teacher pay, an improvement from last year, when the state ranked 41st, according to estimates released Wednesday by the National Education Association.

Among the 12 states in the Southeast, North Carolina now ranks fifth, an improvement from ninth last year. The State Board of Education has set a goal to become No. 1 in the Southeast.

The NEA's report, which details everything from teacher pay to school enrollment and funding by state, shows North Carolina's average teacher salary is $49,837 for the 2016-17 school year. That's about $9,000 less than the national average of $58,950, according to the report.

The figures represent the average gross salary before deductions for things such as Social Security, retirement and insurance and do not take into account cost-of-living differences among the states.

NEA's report also found that North Carolina is projected to be ranked 43rd in the nation in per-pupil spending. It ranked 42nd last year. North Carolina is projected to spend $8,940 per student, down from $8,955 the prior year.

"This is more than $3,000 behind the national average and comes at a time when the state has had several years of $500-600 million surpluses," the North Carolina Association of Educators said in a statement.

“We should give our students the schools they deserve by prioritizing classrooms, not corporate boardrooms,” said NCAE President Mark Jewell. “Not only should we be making the critical investments in our educators but also giving them the resources required to help our students be successful.”

Southeast 2016-17 average teacher pay ranking

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National 2016-17 average teacher pay ranking

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How much to increase teacher pay, if at all, is a perennial budget issue North Carolina governors and lawmakers face. In the past 15 years, North Carolina teachers have seen average salary increases anywhere from zero to more than 8 percent. At times, they have had pay freezes, no step increases and bonuses of varying amounts.

Gov. Roy Cooper called for 5 percent raises for teachers in each of the next two years as part of a five-year plan to raise salaries to the national average. The state Senate is voting this week on a proposed budget that would raise teacher salaries by an average of 9.5 percent by 2018-19, but teachers with 25 years or more experience in the classroom would get no increase at all.

"You are talking about people who have dedicated their lives – dedicated their lives – to teaching children, and you're telling them, after they reached 25 years of experience, they're not worth any more," said Margie Riedell, who teaches at River Dell Elementary School in Clayton.

Riedell has taken to social media to demand higher pay.

"There are too many teachers in North Carolina who have second and third jobs to make ends meet," she said, noting that she also works part-time as a real estate agent.

Riedell said she earned more when she started teaching in New Jersey 15 years ago than she does now.

"Teachers are afraid to speak up, they're afraid for their jobs, they're afraid to talk about how low our pay is, and they're embarrassed because they don't want parents to know how sad our paychecks are," she said. "There are so many teachers who have left the profession that are amazing teachers, and that's sad to me because the children are missing out."

When adjusted for inflation, North Carolina's average teacher salary dropped more than 13 percent from 1999 to 2015, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The U.S. average teacher salary dropped 1.8 percent in that same timeframe.

During the 2001-02 school year, North Carolina ranked 19th in the nation, with pay within $2,000 of the then-national average of $44,655, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

In 2013-14, North Carolina hit its lowest rank in more than a decade – 47th in the nation, with teachers paid nearly $12,000 below the national average of $56,610.

"We need to value our children by valuing our teachers," Riedell said. "I love teaching. I don't love my paycheck."

Teacher salaries in North Carolina are paid both by the state government and, in many counties, by a local supplement.

While average teacher pay rankings are one way to compare North Carolina to the rest of the country, education leaders say those numbers don't tell the whole story. For example, average teacher pay does not take into account the experience level of teachers in different states.​

10 Comments

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  • Barrett Powell May 11, 8:26 a.m.
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    So I'm guessing based on your comment you would also lime NC to be in the top ten for cost of living. How would $2,000 per month for a one bedroom apartment in Raleigh sit with you as compared to the sub $1,000 it is today? Everything would be more expensive.

  • Barrett Powell May 11, 8:18 a.m.
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    I agree with you on that. But tbat is a society issue and not a NC specific issue. Paying some of these entertainers and athletes what we do yet valuing professions like teaching and police the way we do says a lot about our society.

    Many other professions work til late at night also and must pay for most if not all of their required resources. We need to place highwr priority on teachers, but let's keep it in perspective and like every other profession make sure performance and ROI are there, just like every other profession.

  • Barrett Powell May 11, 8:11 a.m.
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    Exactly. Pay scales around the country are adjusted for cost of living for that area. Let's start doing our homework on articles instead of fire then aim.

  • Pam Price May 11, 2:27 a.m.
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    Most teachers I know personally are working at home on their own time until 11pm, and a few even later than that. NC teachers are definitely not in it for the money. Most even spend upwards of $500 a year on supplies for the classroom...of their own money with no hint of even getting any of that refunded by the state. Yet we pay professional athletes how much money? I would rather that type of money go to the people who shape and mold the minds of our children and grandchildren than someone who throws a ball around for our entertainment.

  • Robert Hartley May 10, 6:07 p.m.
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    I wonder how much they get paid per hour bc most teachers I know are not just popping in and out before and after the bell.

  • Rodney Hill May 10, 4:48 p.m.
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    I'd also point out that $49K/yr. is also above the median NC income of $47K/yr...and teachers get significantly more time off than most other professions... If you were to compare salaries and compensate for actual "days worked", you'd see that teachers actually make more like 65-70K/yr.

    For some reason the local media doesn't compare teacher salaries to other professions...I guess that doesn't fit their agenda.

    Do teachers work hard...absolutely! I'd love to see all teachers making 6 figures, but the fact of the matter is, NC *is* in line with the COL and money doesn't grow on trees.

  • Bill Hickey May 10, 12:51 p.m.
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    We are ranked 39th on median household income (2014 numbers) and 39th on annual cost of living (2016 numbers). Based on these numbers we are right in line. It would be understandable if we were in the top 10 of MHI and ACL, but that's not the case. Unfortunately people don't understand the correlation between the 3.

  • Ryan Kurtz May 10, 11:11 a.m.
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    I'd like to see just one time a ranking for teacher pay next to a ranking for average cost of living in these different states based on taxes, mortgages, rents prices, etc. Without knowing the median cost of living in the top-10 teacher paid states off the top of my head, I can just about guarantee that those figures for teacher pay, if adjusted to cost of living, are dramatically different.

  • Teddy Fowler May 10, 9:31 a.m.
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    Thanks to the Republicans it is now moving in the right direction.....

  • Joe Argese May 10, 9:30 a.m.
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    Still too low. Need to aim for top 10 pay now to hit the average by 2020. (the top schools keep giving teachers raises) Let's go Roy!