Education

Report: NC teacher pay slides against peer states

Posted March 6, 2013
Updated March 7, 2013

— North Carolina public school teachers saw their pay drop to among the lowest in the country as state budget-balancing during the Great Recession included a multi-year pay freeze, according to a report Wednesday to the State Board of Education.

Pay for the teachers who educate the state's roughly 1.5 million public school students ranks 46th in the country, above only Mississippi and West Virginia among 12 Southeastern states, the report said. Five years ago, North Carolina teacher salaries were in the middle of the state rankings.

One out of nine teachers earn the lowest base salary of $30,800 because there are few meaningful raises until the fifth year on the job, the report said. The North Carolina average teacher salary of $45,933 last year was nearly $10,000 less than the national average, according to the National Education Association.

Public schools have lost more than 4,000 teachers within the first three years of their careers since 2008, the report said. Losing the newcomers is especially a problem in North Carolina, which has a strategy of developing rookies rather than bringing in veteran teachers.

"If we don't have the teachers at the beginning, in five to 10 years from now we will have difficulty filling those classrooms," said Alexis Schauss, school business director at the state Department of Public Instruction.

The low pay is pushing even the best teachers out, said Darcy Grimes, the North Carolina Teacher of the Year. Grimes, who teaches at Bethel Elementary School in Watauga County, said she knows from conversations that five of last year's nine regional winners of the top-teacher contest are thinking of quitting within a few years to find better-paying work.

NC teachers among lowest paid in US

"Teachers are tired. They're spending more time than ever before to help their students and to get them where they need to be," said Grimes, who is in her sixth year of teaching.

The report said local governments that are able to supplement base salaries set by the state can boost teacher pay by thousands of dollars. Adding a master's or doctorate degree can also boost pay, but a teacher who has not earned completed advanced education beyond a bachelor's degree will take 15 years to earn $40,000, the study said.

The top salary for a teacher with more than 35 years of experience, a doctorate, a local supplement, and other pay bumps can be $80,865 for a 10-month term, the report said.

The report comes as the state school board prepares a funding request to the General Assembly. Teacher salaries were all but frozen in 2008, when the recession started to bite, until lawmakers approved a small pay increase for the current academic year.

State funding for public schools has fallen by $170 million in the past five years, according to the state Department of Public Instruction, which estimated average total compensation fell by $1,400 in the same period.

During his election campaign last year, Gov. Pat McCrory said he agreed with research identifying teacher quality as the main classroom factor affecting student academic achievement. He promised to change the way teachers are paid so they are rewarded for classroom performance rather than for years of experience.

Critics complain that would make pay subject to principals or other school officials rewarding teachers they like and punishing those they don't, as well as blaming them for problems like uninvolved parents they can't control.

High school graduation rates topped 80 percent for the first time last year, up from 70 percent five years ago. But fewer than half of the state's public schools met expected all learning objectives last year, the state's annual schools report card showed. North Carolina's average combined score on the SAT college-entrance exam fell again last year, though participation in the test and college-level Advanced Placement courses increased.

309 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • littleriver69 Mar 13, 8:12 a.m.

    N.C. first in pig farming......last in education. Go figure.

  • Plenty Coups Mar 8, 2:46 p.m.

    "Plenty Coups, while we differ on some issues related to schools. I would like to thank you for bringing out the facts in this thread and others.'

    You're welcome.

  • westernwake1 Mar 8, 1:36 p.m.

    'You forgot to be accurate. Teacher and state worker benefits/healthcare are terrible thanks to recent changes by the republicans in the General Assembly. It currently costs a teacher $291 to just show up at the ER. Plus deductible+ 30% co-pay!'

    Page VI: http://statehealthplan.state.nc.us/library/pdf/benefit-book-basic_0113.pdf

    " You also forgot that you do not work 52 weeks a year like most do at their jobs."

    'Teacher pay, even if you allow for the 8 weeks off that are unpaid, is still far less. Certainly the pay that is ommitted in those 8 weeks (roughly 6000-8000)doesn't justify the 20-30 thousand dollars less than other similar professions.' - Plenty Coups

    Plenty Coups, while we differ on some issues related to schools. I would like to thank you for bringing out the facts in this thread and others.

  • COPs eye Mar 8, 12:19 p.m.

    Teachers are underpaid according to other states? Teachers have it so bad? They were forced to become teachers because there was no other jobs available. Teachers are under alot of stress and questioned about everything they do by parents, administrators, peers etc. WOW!!! They sound like Police and Emergency workers....but wait....People are crying on behalf of the Police and EMS workers.....must be on the wrong site.

  • Plenty Coups Mar 8, 11:13 a.m.

    rlee-"You forgot to add much better benefits and cheaper too."

    You forgot to be accurate. Teacher and state worker benefits/healthcare are terrible thanks to recent changes by the republicans in the General Assembly. It currently costs a teacher $291 to just show up at the ER. Plus deductible+ 30% co-pay!

    Page VI:
    http://statehealthplan.state.nc.us/library/pdf/benefit-book-basic_0113.pdf

    " You also forgot that you do not work 52 weeks a year like most do at their jobs."

    Teacher pay, even if you allow for the 8 weeks off that are unpaid, is still far less. Certainly the pay that is ommitted in those 8 weeks (roughly 6000-8000)doesn't justify the 20-30 thousand dollars less than other similar professions.

    " It is also the only job that you can request family at home to help you do everyday."

    What are you talking about?

    " Do I need to add more?"

    I'd settle for accurate statements.

  • Plenty Coups Mar 8, 11:06 a.m.

    rlee- "How many people make 19.00 per hour 240 hours for 4600.00 "

    ???? Most other jobs that require the same education level pay much more than that. Try some research on the Bureau of Labor Statistics site. Teachers make far less than just about every other profession except social workers. Far less. Then there's the fact that NC pays amongst the worst of the states.

    "Plus all the holiday pay that most others do not get?"

    ??? Holiday pay is comparable to other professions.

  • Plenty Coups Mar 8, 11:03 a.m.

    rlee-"Did you not get a small raise last year?"

    Yes, teachers got a 1.2% raise but pay has been frozen since 2008. Its been a net decrease for teachers since then with massive increases in their health care plans and the ending of "merit pay" bonuses, as well as no STEP pay and other cuts.

    " Why did she wait 2 years to try getting you help and a raise?"
    The recession.

    " Blame it all on the other side once they take power over your failures that will work!"

    Republicans oppose any meaningful raise for teachers and oppose it now. They're in power now and have been the last 2 years.

    "It's only been 2 months and you all wasted 4 years waiting on your people."

    Republicans had enough votes to override Perdue the last 2 years.

    "Give it a wait and see like you did for the Dem. and stop whining."

    See my 7:01 PM post. They've already begun attacking public education and teachers every chance they get. Their comments also confirm it.

  • rlee1117 Mar 8, 10:20 a.m.

    True, but she did propose them the last 2 years of her governorship only to be universally opposed by every republican. And they can and will do worse. Their actions speak volumes. From ending tenure, to raising teacher health care costs, to changing the system for teacher retirement, to midnight votes to bash NCAE, to taxpayer funding of charter schools and vouchers.
    Plenty Coups

    Did you not get a small raise last year? Why did she wait 2 years to try getting you help and a raise? Blame it all on the other side once they take power over your failures that will work! Nice try Bev and others but the voters have spoken so get over it until you give it a chance the other way. It's only been 2 months and you all wasted 4 years waiting on your people. Give it a wait and see like you did for the Dem. and stop whining. In corporate America that whining might get you replaced . How many people make 19.00 per hour 240 hours for 4600.00 Plus all the holiday pay that most others do not get?

  • rlee1117 Mar 8, 9:57 a.m.

    I'd be willing to bet that most of the negative commentators here hold their own children's teachers to an extremely high standard (as they should) and I doubt many of them would say these things to those teachers' faces. My 65 hours a week for 38 weeks surpasses most of your 40 hours a week for 52 weeks any way. I love my job, but something has got to give.

    You forgot to add much better benefits and cheaper too. You also forgot that you do not work 52 weeks a year like most do at their jobs. It is also the only job that you can request family at home to help you do everyday. Do I need to add more? I do think tho it's a shame our teachers are ranked so low in pay per the rest of the other states but that happens in alot of jobs also in the united states. The fist thing we should do is cut central office waste and fraud in all our systems.We have way too many that do not care about kids or parents in Wake County and we are the ones paying them. This non respect Starts with the Board !

  • Plenty Coups Mar 8, 9:06 a.m.

    "OH NOES! We're all DOOMED! DOOMED I tell ya! Im sure giving teachers a raise will be the first thing you would do if you get back in power *snicker*"

    Is this supposed to be an argument? You know, with actual logic and evidence? You think that trying to be like Mississippi is a good thing? Last in just about everything, from life span to income levels?

More...