NC still lags in teacher pay, student spending

Posted March 18, 2015 11:52 a.m. EDT
Updated March 18, 2015 3:14 p.m. EDT

Classroom generic

— Despite an effort to raise starting salaries, North Carolina is expected to remain in the bottom 10 states nationally in average teacher pay, according to a report released Wednesday.

The National Education Association estimates the average salary for a North Carolina public school teacher in the 2014-15 school year at $47,783, which ranks 42nd nationally. In the 2013-14 school year, the state average was $44,990, or 47th nationally, according to the NEA.

Gov. Pat McCrory and state lawmakers vowed last year to increase starting salaries for teachers from less than $31,000 to $35,000 by the start of the 2015-16 school year. Part of that increase was included in last year's state budget, and McCrory two weeks ago rolled out his budget proposal for this year that includes the remainder.

More experienced teachers received much smaller raises last year, and the state Department of Public Instruction has estimated that only one-third of public school teachers would see a raise this year under McCrory's proposal.

“Improving the base pay for beginning teachers is important, but we can’t ignore tens of thousands of teachers that are working hard every day in our classrooms to make our students successful,” North Carolina Association of Educators President Rodney Ellis said in a statement.

Over the last decade, North Carolina ranks dead last nationally for raising teacher salaries, according to the NEA report.

Public school teachers in the state saw salaries drop by 17.4 percent on average between 2003-04 and 2013-14 when their pay is adjusted for inflation, the report states. The national average over that period was a 3.5 percent drop, and the closest state to North Carolina was Indiana, which saw average salaries drop by 12.9 percent, adjusted for inflation.

In terms of per-pupil spending, the NEA report ranks North Carolina 46th in the United States in 2014-15, up from 47th in 2013-14. But spending actually drops from $8,632 to $8,620 per student from last year to this year, according to the report.

“The rankings once again show the troubling trend of falling per-student funding in our public schools,” Ellis said. “Instead of righting the ship, North Carolina’s per-pupil expenditure continues to drop. If we are going to get serious about what works, we must get serious about modern textbooks in the classrooms, more one-on-one interaction with teachers and students and a quality teacher in every class.”

McCrory's budget proposal includes a small increase in education spending outside of teacher raises.

Eric Guckian, McCrory's education adviser, dismissed the NEA's rankings, saying North Carolina is working to improve student results.

"The union’s press release is a typical one, focused on adults and money without a single mention of student outcomes," Guckian said in a statement. "Governor McCrory is leading a change that makes targeted investments in education spending that has students, not special interests, at the center of the equation."

Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson declined to comment on the NEA report.