NC teacher pay ranks 41st in nation; ranked 42nd last year

Posted May 13, 2016

— North Carolina ranks 41st in the nation for average teacher pay, a slight improvement from last year, when the state ranked 42nd, according to the latest estimates from the National Education Association.

NEA released its annual rankings Friday in a 130-page report that details everything from teacher pay to school enrollment and funding by state.

The report shows North Carolina teachers make an average of $47,985 this school year, about $10,000 less than the average U.S. teacher, who makes $58,064. 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 by state.

Last year, the average North Carolina teacher made $47,819, about $9,600 less than the national average of $57,420, according to NEA's newly revised numbers.

2015-16 average teacher pay ranking

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Source: Salary estimates are provided by the National Education Association. The figures represent the average gross salary before deductions for Social Security, retirement, insurance, etc.

Teacher pay has been a hot topic this election year with the governor and state superintendent – both of whom are seeking re-election – touting their ideas for how much to pay teachers. And legislative leaders, some of whom are also up for re-election, recently returned to Raleigh to begin the short session where teacher pay will be discussed.

The House plans to roll out its full budget proposal Tuesday, which is expected to include raises for teachers. But how much of a raise teachers could get is still unknown. Lawmakers and education leaders who have spoken publicly about the topic have called for raises anywhere from 2 percent to the double digits.

Grading Teacher Pay After inflation, NC teacher pay has dropped 13% in past 15 years

Gov. Pat McCrory has proposed an average 5 percent pay bump for teachers this year. His office released a statement Friday about the new teacher pay rankings.

"Under Governor McCrory’s leadership, North Carolina teacher pay has increased faster than any other state in the country," Catherine Truitt, McCrory’s senior education advisor, said in a statement. "We must continue this trend of improvement and adopt the governor’s strategic plan to raise average teacher pay to $50,000 plus benefits in order to make up for ground lost under previous governors to attract, retain and reward the best teachers."

NEA's report showed that North Carolina had the largest one-year increase in pay of any state from 2013-14 to 2014-15 – a 6.3 percent increase.

Although North Carolina's teaching profession has benefited from raises the past two years, permanent increases have been largely tilted toward early career teachers as lawmakers and McCrory raised the minimum base salary to $35,000. That's led to complaints that veteran teachers have been left out.

McCrory says his latest budget proposal would provide a 3.5 percent average bonus to teachers and principals, "with a greater share going to veteran teachers. This will equate to a $5,000 bonus for our veteran teachers with more than 24 years of service."

The North Carolina Association of Educators blasted the governor's plan, calling it an election-year proposal that does "little to make up for years of disrespecting the education profession and dismantling our public schools." The NCAE has endorsed McCrory's Democratic challenger for governor, Roy Cooper.

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 0 percent to more than 8 percent. At times, they have had pay freezes, no step increases and bonuses of varying amounts.

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

North Carolina hasn't always ranked near the bottom for teacher pay. During the 2001-02 school year, the state ranked 19th in the nation, less than $2,000 from 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.

A WRAL News poll in March found support for increased teacher pay. A majority of respondents said they believe North Carolina's K-12 public schools are inadequately funded and that teacher salaries should be increased by up to 10 percent.

Those views are in line with what North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson has asked lawmakers for in recent months. She went to the legislature in January to request a 10 percent raise for teachers.

Although some lawmakers called her request unrealistic, Atkinson says she believes they will give teachers the largest salary increase in a decade because it is an election year.

The State Board of Education has set a goal for North Carolina to become No. 1 in the Southeast for teacher pay. NEA's latest report shows North Carolina is ranked ninth out of 12 states in the Southeast. Last year, the state was ranked 10th.

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.

Alexis Schauss, director of school business for the state Department of Public Instruction, says average teacher pay does not take into account the experience level of teachers in different states. When North Carolina's average teacher pay went down in previous years, it wasn't because teachers were paid less. The population just became less experienced.

"We lost a significant number of 25-plus-year teachers," Schauss said.

She advises potential teacher candidates to look at North Carolina public schools' salary schedules, which show how much money the state pays teachers based on years of experience, education level and certifications.

"Stick with salary schedules. That’s recruiting power," Schauss said.

​Teacher salaries in North Carolina are paid both by the state government and, in many counties, by a local supplement. Wake County public schools pays its teachers nearly $7,000, the highest average supplement in the state this year. The exact amount is determined by how many years a teacher has been employed and whether they have a bachelor's or master's degree.

Durham Public Schools paid the second highest average supplement in the state this school year, nearly $6,800, followed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, which also paid nearly $6,800.

Seven school systems did not pay their teachers any supplement this school year.


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  • Shandy Scott May 16, 2016
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    Roger you are 100% spot on The facts about raises. According to the NEA's web site, North Carolina teachers have the lowest cumulative raises in the country from 2003-2012. Democrats had control the Governor's seat all of those ten years and the general assembly for the first eight years. In 2008, 2009, 2010, Democrats controlled everything and granted no raises. In 2011, we had a Democrat for Governor, you remember the worst rated one in the country, and a Republican controlled general assembly and no raises. In 2012, the same control and teachers received a raise.

  • Roger Clements May 14, 2016
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    I'm not a Democrat or Republican, but the 1990's up until 2012 were the years of Governors Hunt, Easley and Perdue - the so called "Education Governors". Seems like the title was erroneously bestowed upon them, especially Hunt.

  • Tomma Hargraves May 13, 2016
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    I never got a raise the last years of teaching as a speech-language pathologist in NC... And lost $15,000 in salary after moving from Fairfax, Virginia in 1996... I felt the state was going in the right direction when I moved here, but not any more!

  • Roger Clements May 13, 2016
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    [quote=15702709]Post by Joe /quote]All that money went to Mike Easley and his buddies.

  • Joe Coon May 13, 2016
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    Think what teacher pay would be if we didn't have a lottery! NCEL brags about the billions of dollars it has pumped into NC education over the last 10 years. Those billions moved us up to 41st in the country in teacher pay? All the statistics show NCEL hasn't done a thing for the quality of education in North Carolina. Where have the billions gone? If you think your purchase of a lottery ticket is doing anything for NC Education, you're kidding yourself. It's a very, very sad joke and teacher pay is the punchline.

  • Raleigh Rose May 13, 2016
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    I get what people are saying about good teachers, but maybe we could attract better teachers if we paid them more. Personally, I wanted to go into teaching, but it would have been next to impossible to live and pay college loans back on what a teacher makes. That is a problem when you are trying to attract good teachers.

  • Kyle Clarkson May 13, 2016
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  • John McCray May 13, 2016
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    Not quite:

  • Shandy Scott May 13, 2016
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    Their pay ranked 47th when McCrory took office. In this same time according to the Tax Foundation's web site are overall tax burden has gone from the 7th highest to the 34th highest. The 2.5 billion dollar deficit ending the fiscal two years 6/30/2012 has now turned into a 440 million dollar surplus.

  • Sam Adams May 13, 2016
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    I am all for paying teachers more, but only those that truly deserve it. There are some wonderful teachers out there, but there are some that should not be teaching at all. Unfortunately, I have had the pleasure/displeasure of experiencing both as a student and now as a father of two. Therefore, I certainly do not support raises across the board for all teachers. Teachers should be paid upon their performance. Perhaps this way it will incentivize those who are doing very poorly to step up their game.