Editorial: Reality is 'average' teacher pay bypasses most N.C. teachers

Posted August 29, 2016 5:00 a.m. EDT
Updated August 29, 2016 1:17 p.m. EDT

A CBC Editorial: Monday, Aug. 29, 2016; Editorial# 8048
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

Public school teachers in North Carolina must be sitting pretty. At least it’s easy to get that impression from the political ads and campaign statements.

Ads for Republican incumbents tout that they’ve given North Carolina public school teachers an “average” raise of 4.7 percent and increased “average” pay above $50,000.

Teachers should be happy and we should feel education is getting a priority focus to lift our schools from the bottom tier in the national rankings.

Why then do many people – school leaders, teachers and parents – remain skeptical?

Because North Carolina is not Lake Wobegon. Not all teachers get the “average” pay increase and a majority of them are NOT paid above the average. An "average" calculation can be misleading.

The reality is that “average pay” is NOT what the “average teacher” (in terms of job experience and duties) receives – not even close.

Last year, about two-thirds of North Carolina’s public school teachers were paid LESS than the “average.” The divide between the many teachers who make less than the average and the minority who make more is likely to grow because of pay scale adjustments, local supplements and teacher turnover.

How could this be? First, that $50,000 the commercials boast about is not all state money. Local pay supplements and bonuses make up a significant chunk. Those supplements vary wildly depending upon the school district. A teacher in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools will receive the highest “average” supplement in the state. Meanwhile some districts like Halifax County don’t provide any salary supplement to teachers.

The supplements aren’t paid across the board either – teachers can receive more, or less, depending upon experience, additional educational achievement or duties.

How is the $50,000 “average” teacher pay explained? Simple, some say. Just take last year’s statewide average pay, $47,931, add the 4.7 percent “average” pay increase in the state budget – and there it is.

But it is just not that simple. There are as many as 10 other variables that go into teacher pay. And those variables can be very different depending on the school district, a teacher’s experience, and more.

North Carolina voters deserve to know more about teacher pay than a convenient, “average” that fits well into a soundbite or a slick TV ad graphic -- but disguises a deeper truth about public education spending.

Wonder what the "average teacher pay is just using state funds?

Wonder what the "median" teacher pay is using just state funds?

We’ll keep asking and searching for answers.

SEE THIS: N.C. Association of Educators President Mark Jewell discusses public school teacher pay.

Capitol Broadcasting Company's Opinion Section seeks a broad range of comments and letters to the editor. Our Comments beside each opinion column offer the opportunity to engage in a dialogue about this article.

In addition, we invite you to write a letter to the editor about this or any other opinion articles. Here are some tips on submissions >> SUBMIT A LETTER TO THE EDITOR