Website ranks NC near bottom for teachers

Posted October 1, 2015 6:44 p.m. EDT
Updated October 2, 2015 3:59 p.m. EDT

— Although North Carolina ranks highly as a desirable place to live and start a business, a personal finance website says the state is a less than desirable for teachers to work.

WalletHub ranked North Carolina 50th, ahead of only West Virginia, in its Best and Worst States for Teachers study released this week.

Jill Gonzalez, an analyst for WalletHub, said the website creates such database studies to "help consumers and people in the workforce make the most educated financial decisions as possible."

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the census, the National Education Association and other WalletHub studies, the site compiled 13 measures into an overall ranking, Gonzalez said.

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North Carolina ranked very low in three areas: 43rd in teacher safety, which is determined by the number of teachers who say they were threatened by a student in the past year, 46th in per-pupil spending and 49th in teacher salary increases over the last decade.

"The 10-year change, I think, is the most alarming here, at just an increase of 10 percent over the last 10 years or so," Gonzalez said. "It’s clear that their salaries really aren’t keeping up with inflation. I think teachers can say that all over the country, but the rates at which North Carolina really hasn’t been increasing over the past 10 years is so much worse than all these other states that we’re seeing."

The General Assembly has pushed over the past two years to increase the starting salary for North Carolina teachers to $35,000, and other teachers received a raise last year, although it was a small one for some.

Democrats and education advocates wasted no time using the WalletHub ranking to criticize Republican legislative leaders.

"Let's be clear, this ranking should be laid at the feet of the politicians who have neglected our students," said Jessica Benton, a special-needs teacher at Millbrook Elementary School in Raleigh.

Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, say the study isn't credible because it uses data from the NEA, which leans left politically.

Gonzales said the NEA data, which accounts for five of the 13 measures included in the overall rankings, is not a valid reason to dismiss the study.

"Data isn't left or right," she said. "These are numbers. They don't lie. They don't skew one way or the other. They simply rack up depending on any other state here."