Teacher pay in NC: 16 years to reach $40K

Posted February 26, 2014

Members of the American Federation of Teachers, a national group that supports public education, joined the Moral March in Raleigh Feb. 8, 2014.

— State lawmakers and education leaders are considering paying North Carolina teachers based on their individual performance, despite concerns from stakeholders who argue it could harmfully affect students and teacher morale.

Republican Senator Jerry Tillman, an education budget writer, is helping lead a newly-formed legislative task force that will develop recommendations for alternative pay plans. Members, whom include legislators and education leaders across the state, must factor in teacher evaluation measures and student performance outcomes.

Tillman says rewarding teachers based on their performance is logical.

“Teachers are either good, bad, average. If you put a 1,000 neurosurgeons out there, ten percent of them are going to be at the top,” Tillman says. “The good ones will be rewarded.”

Judy Kidd, a teacher and president of North Carolina’s Classroom Teachers Association, argues that merit pay discourages teamwork and pits teachers against one another.

“It causes some dissension among teachers. Most teachers work as a group, they share ideas among each other and it’s just a collegial atmosphere,” she says. “So, when you start rewarding one teacher over another, it causes disruption.”

Teacher contract system

Kidd, who is on the task force, pushed back on a merit pay plan already enacted last year by lawmakers – the teacher contract system. Under that plan, local school leaders are required to identify the top 25 percent of teachers to reward them with 4-year contracts and $500 annual bonuses.

Republican lawmakers are hoping it will incentive the top teachers to voluntarily give up tenure, or career status, which will phase out in 2018.

Kidd says rewarding only 25 percent of teachers seems arbitrary.

“What is the reasoning behind it?” she asked at the task force’s first meeting on Tuesday.

Tillman responded saying that the state is working with the dollars available.

"We had enough money to do 25 percent, we need to move that up to 100 percent, but we had to start somewhere," he says.

"On the plus side, the $2.5 billion deficit that we inherited is gone, the retirement and health system is fully taken care of for right now. The only unknown elephant in the room is Medicaid, if we had that solved, we could direct dedicated continued dollars to education."

Teacher pay by the numbers:

Under the current state base pay scale, a teacher who started in the system with no experience would take 16 years to reach a $40,000 salary.

North Carolina school teachers have only seen one one raise since 2008, which was 1.2 percent.

Governor Pat McCrory and legislative leaders recently pledge to raise salaries for teachers early in their careers to $35,000.

Almost all public school districts, except for 11, supplement the state pay with additional pay based on factors like a teacher’s experience, expertise or professional credentials.

Tim Barnbacks, president of Professional Educators of North Carolina, says local districts should take more responsibility in providing incentives for teachers that are not merit-based.

“Education is a team sport. It seems we start rewarding individual teachers rather than the whole group of teachers and making everyone feel whole," he says.

The group is expected to give its final recommendations on teacher pay to the General Assembly by April 15.

This report first appeared on WUNC/North Carolina Public Radio as part of their education coverage.

Reema Khrais is the 2014 Fletcher Fellow focused on Education Policy Reporting. The Fletcher Fellowship is a partnership between WUNC and UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication funded in part by the Fletcher Foundation.


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  • Danny22 Mar 5, 2014

    The benefits are great. You can retire with full benefits after 30 yrs and the health insurance is ridiculously low in costs. I am a retired public school/college educator and I pay 13.00 per month for my 80/20 plan. Educators have it made when you think about it.

  • Eric Allgrim Mar 4, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Once you open up this can of worms, the schools will no longer be held legally responsible to provide an adequate education or fair treatment toward it's students.

  • 2coolkids Feb 28, 2014

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    You'll find most of those counties (not all) voted overwhelmingly for Republican candidates. I can only assume they are ok with the states' cuts in funding, low teacher pay and inadequate resources. Rep. Stam and other Republican reps and senators have said local communities should just pick up the tab if they think teachers need raises. If poor, rural districts don't agree, their votes should reflect that in November.

  • damauro Feb 27, 2014

    Does anyone want to know how sad the available resources are for 4th grade science teachers in North Carolina?

  • damauro Feb 27, 2014

    Wondering how many readers are grading papers or writing lesson plans right now...7:53.

  • U2 Feb 27, 2014

    If you can read and write thank a teacher( and ask your representatives to give them a well deserved raise, to all of them).

  • 40YRTEACHER Feb 27, 2014

    "Almost all public school districts, except for 11, supplement the state pay with additional pay based on factors like a teacher’s experience, expertise or professional credentials."

    This in itself is a way to assure the counties with higher incomes will have better schools. Is this fair to the lower income counties who cannot offer supplements?

  • Pensive01 Feb 26, 2014

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    Well when Easley left office NC was ranked 25th in the country for teacher's salaries, which placed us pretty much at the average mark. When Purdue came into office the whole economy was pretty much tanking so it wasn't until 2011 that she tried to have a raise put into the budget, which was removed by the Legislature and which also overrode Perdue's veto of that same budget. By this point NC had slipped down to 41st place in the rakings for salaries. Perdue tries again in 2012 to have a raise put into the budget and once again the Legislature removes it, and NC has slipped down to 46th place. I trust this timeline answers your question.

  • 2coolkids Feb 26, 2014

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    "North Carolina is paying $7.1 million a year to Pearson Inc. for use of the PowerSchool student information system that was implemented statewide this school year."

  • BlahBlahBlahBlahBlah Feb 26, 2014

    30 years and you only reach $42,000..