Wake County Schools

New state budget, local pay boost will bump salaries by thousands for Wake teachers

Posted November 18, 2021 5:29 p.m. EST
Updated November 18, 2021 6:01 p.m. EST

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— Wake County Public School System teachers will receive a couple thousand more dollars in the first year of the new state budget, on top of one-time bonuses of $2,500 to $2,800, a WRAL News analysis shows.

A recently approved 1% increase in the local teacher supplement pay by the Wake County Board of Education will provide $627.46 to $1,230.92 for every teacher, based on years of experience.

In the second year of the budget, most of the pay increase, relative to today’s salaries, will come from the state, which will pay for previously unfunded “step increases” of $1,000 to $2,000 for years of experience and add $920 to $1,360 to each step’s base pay.

In all, newly hired teachers will receive $1,087.46 to $1,910.92 more, depending on their years of experience, an average 2.6% rise in pay. Most of that will come from the local salary supplement increase. In the second year, if they move up a step, they will receive between $1,567.97 to $2,590.92 more than they are now, an average of 3.8% rise in pay. Most of that will come from the state’s second increase to the base pay

Teachers who have advanced one step without their state base pay increasing will receive between $2,097.97 to $3,691.01 more, depending on their years of experience, for an average increase of 4.2% in pay. In the second year, they would earn between $2,567.97 to $4,371.01 more than they are earning now, an average of 5.3% more

Teachers who have advanced two steps without their state base pay increasing will receive between $3,125.90 to $6,267.72 in the first year, an average increase of 5.7%. In the second year, if they move up a step, they will receive a tad more than that — $3,641.43 to $6947.72 more than what they earn now. That’s an average jump of 6.9%.

What teachers earn now

Current pay for Wake County teachers who aren’t nationally certified starts at $41,274.60 and tops out at $64,309.20 once a teacher accumulates 31 years of experience. Years of experience is measured in months worked, so a teacher who has signed only 10-month contracts would have to work more than 38 years to reach the maximum pay in the district.

Teachers only earned the salaries listed in the district’s pay schedule if they were newly hired or had maxed out their pay, because step increase have not recently been funded by the state.

The district funds between 14% and 19% of the salaries listed in the pay scale. The percentage increases as teachers gain experience because the state funds only one step increase after a teacher accumulates 15 years of experience, while the district’s local supplement generally rises each year.

No new supplemental teacher funding

Other teachers in the state will have different pay increases under the new state budget, depending on their local teacher supplement, if they have one, and because most counties received an additional supplement for being “low wealth.”

All but five of the state’s 115 school districts qualify as “low wealth” under the budget’s calculations. Wake County, Charlotte-Mecklenberg, Guilford County, Durham County and Buncombe County school districts did not — located in five of the state’s seven most populous counties.

Those districts account for about one-third (25,000) of the 82,000 state-funded, full-time teachers employed in North Carolina during the 2020-21 school year.

The calculation for the low wealth teacher supplement in the new budget differs from the calculation for the low wealth school supplement that the state already provides, using different factors and weighing them differently.

The low wealth school supplement excludes 34 counties out of the state’s 100 counties.

The cost of living factor

Teachers and other school district employees have been increasing demonstrations for higher pay for weeks as employee shortages linger and morale continues to plummet.

The school board has responded with bonuses but not major salary boosts.

Many employees have cited the rising cost of living in Wake County as a stressor on their income.

Currently, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator calls a “living wage” for an adult without children to be $16.32 per hour in Wake County (about $34,000 per year). In a two-adult household with three children, in which both adults work, a “living wage” would be $28.67 per hour for each adult (about $60,000 per year).

Beyond sharp housing price increases in the area, child care costs for working parents have also risen.

The Economic Policy Institute reports the average annual cost of infant care in the state is $9,480 — more than the cost of a year of in-state, four-year college tuition.

Wake County had the highest average local teacher supplement, at $8,873 during the 2020-21 school year, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. The local supplement increase would bring that average up to $9,760.30, if all factors, such as teacher experience, remained the same.

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