Opinion

Opinion

Editorial: N.C. school principal pay, another failing grade

Posted November 18, 2016 6:00 a.m. EST

A CBC Editorial: Friday, Nov. 18, 2016; Editorial# 8083
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

Perhaps we’re getting numb to all the bad news about our state’s funding of public education. The recent revelation doesn’t help -- North Carolina’s principal salaries are the second lowest in the nation.

Well, given what we pay our public school teachers, sadly we’re not surprised.

In North Carolina, average principal pay has increased 4 percent from 2007 -- just before the Great Recession -- through 2015.

Among North Carolina’s neighboring states, where average salaries are already higher, increases over the same eight-year period were: 12 percent in Georgia, 16 percent in South Carolina, 11 percent in Tennessee and 15 percent in Virginia.

By any measure, that’s no “comeback,” it’s a “Carolina fallback” that reflects the continued neglect of our public schools. This needs to be fixed.

Don’t just take our word for it. Just last month State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey – a well-credentialed conservative – said his fellow board members needed to “encourage and prod the General Assembly to take action” to increase school administrator pay.

School principal salaries in North Carolina can vary greatly. Not only is it a function of experience but also of geography.

Local supplements for principals can be significant – exceeding $27,000 a year in school districts like Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake County.

But at the other end, 30 districts provide principal average supplements of $5,000 or less. Three school systems – Dare, Martin and Tyrrell don’t provide any supplements at all.

What all this means is key in-school administrators in rural school districts are paid significantly less than those in urban districts.

A legislative study committee, headed by state Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph and Rep. Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke, is looking into school-based administrator pay. Tillman is a former school administrator and Blackwell was a local board of education member.

Their committee recently presented a plan that would eliminate the current salary schedule for administrators and replace it with a lump-sum that superintendents could use, as they saw fit, to hire and pay principals. Additionally, the plan would increase average pay for administrators and provide for performance bonuses to reduce the drastic differences between urban and rural districts as well as those that are high-wealth and low-wealth.

But without adequate funding, simply replacing one pay plan with another is, as the saying goes, little more than rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic.

Our legislators should be embarrassed. It is unreasonable and unfair to expect the best when you pay the worst in the nation.  Poll after poll shows North Carolinians are willing to pay to make their schools better.  The General Assembly needs to share the view of the people that elected them and support public education.

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