WRAL News poll: Schools, teachers deserve more money

Posted March 9, 2016
Updated March 10, 2016

School Funding (Generic)

— A new poll commissioned by WRAL News shows a majority of respondents believe North Carolina's K-12 public schools are inadequately funded and that teacher salaries should be increased by up to 10 percent.

Those responses 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. She has predicted that lawmakers will give teachers the largest salary increase in a decade because it is an election year.

Legislators have raised teacher pay in each of the past two years, focusing on early-career educators, but Atkinson says much more is needed.

"If we don’t invest now, we are going to pay later," Atkinson said Wednesday when reached by phone. "I just want the General Assembly to find a way."

North Carolina ranked 47th in the country for average salaries for public school teachers, according to recent estimates by the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union. A first-year teacher with a bachelor's degree and no special certifications makes $35,000, while 20-year veterans make $46,500 a year, state records show.

Education poll results

SurveyUSA, which conducted the poll for WRAL News, questioned 2,000 adults statewide between Friday and Monday, 1,800 of whom are registered voters. The questions ranged from politics and the election to education. The two education questions had an overall margin of sampling error of 2.1 to 2.2 percentage points.

WRAL poll: school funding

WRAL poll: teacher salaries

Robert Pickard, 85, of Raleigh, was one of the respondents who said schools and teachers need more money. He supports a salary increase up to 10 percent.

"I have a very definite bias toward education. If I had to choose between education and health care, I would be really hard pressed to say what is more important for the community and for the nation," said Pickard, a Democrat.

"In general, teachers have been sort of shortchanged in terms of the importance of the role that they play in our society. I think they need more recognition, both financially and otherwise," he added.

Pickard said he doubts lawmakers will grant teachers a 10 percent pay raise. "I think it would be tough. It would be a real fight."

Mary Harris, 67, of Cary, said she also supports a 10 percent raise for teachers and more funding for schools.

"Some of those children give the teachers a hard time," said Harris, a Democrat. "If they’re a good teacher, they deserve a raise. ... I hope they get it."

Lawmakers respond to poll

WRAL News contacted six lawmakers who lead the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee to get their thoughts about the poll. Two of them responded.

Rep. Linda Johnson, R-Cabarrus, who co-chairs the committee, said in an email to WRAL News that a 10 percent raise "sounds good and would be a well-deserved boost to our teachers, but what about teaching assistants, bus drivers, counselors and cafeteria workers."

All state employees need to be rewarded, Johnson said, adding that she believes raises will come during the upcoming legislative short session, "but not at unrealistic rates."

Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, vice chairman of the committee, said he believes teacher salaries "must move up across the board."

"It not only helps us retain highly-effective teachers in the classroom, it also broadens the pool of available teachers," Horn wrote in an email to WRAL News. "The precipitous decline in enrollment in teacher prep programs is a national problem, not just a North Carolina problem. Many states are in much more dire straits than are we. Salaries are a big piece of that puzzle. I support the 'Increase by up to 3%' option (in the poll), but would like to do even more."

However, the 10 percent proposal "is simply unrealistic in our still-fragile economy," he added.

WRAL News also contacted Gov. Pat McCrory's office to ask about teacher salaries and school funding. The governor's spokesman, Graham Wilson, released the following statement:

"Since 2013, under Governor McCrory’s leadership, North Carolina has committed over $1 billion more for teacher pay through his first term, thanks in part to the largest average teacher pay increase in the country. We look forward to building on these important investments in the upcoming budget to strengthen education and better prepare our students for career opportunities."

State school board: Teacher salaries are top budget priority

The State Board of Education has created a list of six budget priorities it wants McCrory to consider this year. At the top of the list: teacher salaries.

School board members debated whether to request a specific amount, as the state superintendent did, but decided to focus on how North Carolina ranks against other states. They want North Carolina public schools to become No. 1 in the Southeast for teacher salaries. North Carolina is currently ranked 11th out of 12 states in the region, according to state education leaders.

It's unclear how much of an increase it would take to become No. 1. Philip Price, chief financial officer for the state Department of Public Instruction, said last week it "will take some time to determine that percentage," adding that "we are starting that process now."

State Superintendent Atkinson said Wednesday she believes it would take a more than 5 percent raise to become No. 1. Other than teacher pay, Atkinson cited professional development for teachers and textbooks and digital resources for students as her other top budget priorities.

The school board's top budget priorities total more than $200 million in extra funding requests, not including teacher raises, which have yet to be calculated. A 1 percent salary increase across the board, for example, would cost $50.1 million. This year, North Carolina public schools received more than $8.5 billion in funding from the state.

The school board's other top budget priorities include:

Digital learning

  • $57 million for textbooks and digital resources
  • $25 million for classroom technology
  • $6 million to make the Home Base system free for all schools. Teachers use Home Base to access student data and teaching resources. Students use it to access assignments, grades and activities. Parents use it to view their children’s attendance and grades. Administrators use it to monitor data about students and teachers in their schools.
  • $3 million nonrecurring and $2 million recurring funds to support upgrades to the Uniform Education Reporting System.

Teacher recruitment and retention

  • $12 million for professional development, to restore the funds to 2008-09 levels
  • $4 million in incentive bonuses for teachers exceeding growth in the lowest achieving 5 percent of schools
  • $1 million to train lateral entry teachers, which would pay for two courses per year for those teachers

State agency support of public schools

  • $8.6 million for intensive support for the lowest-achieving 5 percent of schools and 10 percent of districts
  • $4 million for intensive support for students with behavioral/emotional needs
  • $600,000 for leadership programs for principals and assistant principals
  • $80,000 for the North Carolina Procurement Alliance

General classroom support

  • $46.9 million for instructional supplies and equipment
  • $20 million to support the implementation of Child Nutrition Program standards
  • $11.5 million per year for five years to hire an additional 236 nurses to achieve the recommended ratio of one nurse to 750 students, per the National Association of School Nurses
  • $4.5 million for additional assistant principal positions
  • $4 million to support 13 new board-approved cooperative innovative high schools
  • $1.3 million to restore 21 nurse positions eliminated in 2010-11

Residential schools

  • $4.3 million to purchase safety equipment
  • $510,000 for specific technology purchases for the Governor Morehead School and support for one technology position
  • $440,000 to increase working months for some staff from 10 or 11 months to 12 months to meet federal mandates
  • $300,000 to sponsor two residential summer programs for 150 children from the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf

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  • Andy Jackson Mar 10, 2016
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    Exactly. These executive salaries, retirement pensions, and elaborate spending must stop at the local levels (counties) first!

  • Will Sonnett Mar 10, 2016
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    Should schools receive the highest level of funding that we can reasonably afford? YES! Should teachers be compensated at the highest level we can reasonably afford? YES! Should NCDPI be closed? YES! Should the giant bureaucracy of local school systems be eliminated? YES! The first job of any bureaucracy is to perpetuate itself. It continues to expand, adding layer upon layer of useless positions that only produce needless paperwork and ensure that the salaries of those at the top grow (a $600,00.00 golden parachute for the Wake superintendent, $500,000.00 for the retiring Johnston superintendent). How much do local districts and DPI spend on consultants each year or on "professional development" programs that line the pockets of their cronies? Pay the teachers. Fund the schools. Stop wasting money on the "educrats".

  • Matt Nickeson Mar 10, 2016
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    I think the biggest issue with the increased spending in public education revolves around the fact that most of the money is directed toward administration rather than thing directly affecting teaching. Where you might have had only a principle 20-30 years ago you have a principle and several assistant/vice principals now. Also, there seems to be an obsession in schools with bringing in technology for everything. That is incredibly expensive and several studies, both in the US and abroad, have shown that technology in the classroom actually decreases comprehension and retention. Should schools focus their energy on fundamental principles that can easily and readily be taught without spending enormous amounts of money on a massive IT infrastructure? I don't think the schools need more money, I think we need to reform the schools by decreasing administrative costs, returning to the basics of education, and increase pay for teachers while implementing some form of performance metric.

  • Roy Hinkley Mar 10, 2016
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    That's outdated material. The 2015 OECD report shows US as 4th (behind Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Norway). Furthermore, simply looking at total amount spent is far too simplistic a look at a very complex system.

  • Doug Smallen Mar 10, 2016
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    Yes the Teachers deserve more money, but i question more money for the schools, as we always assume that is always the solution , and the return so far has been nothing short of dismal, for the money so far invested.

  • Maurice Pentico Jr. Mar 9, 2016
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    further........ http://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-education-spending-tops-global-list-study-shows/

  • Maurice Pentico Jr. Mar 9, 2016
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    The United States already spends the most money per pupil than any other nation on the planet!!! Let that sink in. Yet our children score lower on standardized tests. I support my teachers... and think they do a great job... but throwing more and more tax dollars is not the answer to every problem.

  • Matt Nickeson Mar 9, 2016
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    Um, the state managed to slide to 47th in the nation under the Democrats watch? How exactly have the Republicans done anything to dismantle the public school system? Actually giving pay raises to teachers? Oh my, how dare they! Giving parents some small degree of freedom in choice in school selection? I fail to see any validity in your statement but if I am wrong then please do enlighten me.

  • Melanie Lane Mar 9, 2016
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    then stop voting for republicans they are trying to privatize our education system and funding the public ones doesn't help that happen. They run on failing schools and then pass policies that are designed to make sure schools fail.

  • Brandon White Mar 9, 2016
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    I wonder where the 66% think the money is going to come from? Corporations do not pay taxes, let me explain. They include taxes in their cost of goods and services, so the end item consumer pays them. Two, tax the rich? Well they are the investors who purchase stocks, which companies use to grow and create jobs. So determine what you want children. You cannot have everything. I think the 66% is a very telling figure, that goes back to the American revolution. 64% were opposed to the revolution, only 36% were for it. Ever since, that mid 60% level has been trying to create a government where a perceived Mommy or Daddy figure (the British Crown or Socialism), take scare of their every need.

    Yes, two- thirds of our population are too weak to handle freedom, liberty or personal responsibility.