Behind the Doc: Grading Teacher Pay

Posted April 20, 2016 4:40 p.m. EDT
Updated April 26, 2016 11:43 a.m. EDT

North Carolina was once ranked 19th in the nation in average teacher pay. Today, we're 42nd. Tuesday at 7 p.m., the WRAL Documentary team examines how teacher pay has changed and what state leaders have to say. Also, has taken an in-depth look at teacher pay since 1999. Look for the analysis Tuesday morning starting at 7 a.m.

WRAL Documentary producer Clay Johnson gives a preview of Tuesday's special:

It seems like our state’s policymakers on both sides of the aisle have agreed for decades that public school teachers are not adequately paid. So why does the problem persist? Part of the reason may be how the profession has been perceived since its origins. When the first Superintendent of Schools made his first report to the General Assembly he said that teaching was a great profession for women and a good deal for the state because they didn’t need to be paid as much as men. So, when it comes to teacher pay in North Carolina the bar was set low from the very beginning.

Combine that with the tradition of men being the primary breadwinners in their households and the idea that women worked out of choice rather than necessity. That led to the perception that women who worked as teachers did not need to be paid much because they had a husband earning most of the household’s money. There’s also been the misconception that it’s not a difficult job, that anyone can do it. All you need to do is spend a day in a public school classroom to know that’s not the case.

The public teaching profession in our state is still overwhelmingly female, but times have changed and the way we perceive and treat our public school teachers needs to change too. They are college-educated professionals tasked with an enormous responsibility and they should be compensated as such. The good news for teachers is that both our Governor and many of our legislative leaders think teachers need a raise. Now the question is whether the amount will be an election year token or a meaningful reflection of the value of our teachers. Perhaps our legislature should look at a raise not as just another expense in this year’s budget but an investment in our state’s long-term future.