RALEIGH – Maybe we’ve turned the corner.
After average teacher pay in North Carolina sank to a rank of 47th in the country in 2013-14, state legislators deserve credit for raising average teacher pay above $50,000 to a national rank of 37th, according to estimates released last week by the National Education Association.
Pay for North Carolina teachers averaged $50,861 in the current school year, according to NEA. That ranks North Carolina 6th among Southeastern states. The state’s average still trails its neighboring states by anywhere from $39 (South Carolina) to $5,468 (Georgia), and it is about $9,600 less than the national average of $60,483.1
Combined with the 3.3% raise teachers received this school year, raises in the second year of the two-year budget legislators approved last year should raise teacher salaries by 9.6% over the two-year period2– and should further raise North Carolina’s national ranking next year.
That’s significant progress from the abysmal ranking of 2014.
But many North Carolinians also recall that the state ranked 19th in teacher pay in 2001-02, at the end of former Gov. Jim Hunt’s fourth term.
Gov. Roy Cooper proposed a series of teacher raises last year that he said would put the state on a path to lead all Southeastern states in teacher pay in three years and reach the national average in five years.3 That’s an admirable goal, and worthy of adoption by state leaders.
North Carolinians appear to agree.
A High Point University Poll in February found that 85% of North Carolinians think public school teachers are paid too little. And 73% – including 72% of Republicans – said they would be willing to pay more in taxes to raise North Carolina teacher pay to the national average in five years.4
As state legislators prepare to convene May 16 for their so-called “short” session, we hope they will build on the pay increases they approved last year for teachers.
Legislators have made significant progress with teacher pay, but we still have a long way to go.
3https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/Teacher%20Pay%20One%20Pager.pdf; http://www.greensboro.com/news/government/cooper-gives-details-for-teacher-pay-raises/article_a9c5014a-3be2-57f3-a722-83e43fd4e6f3.html; http://www.newsobserver.com/latest-news/article133866919.html.