by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
This week, JLF’s Terry Stoops commented on teacher pay for the Daily Tar Heel. The article reports on a school teacher, Sally Merryman, who defends Gov. Roy Cooper’s decision to veto a 3.9 percent pay raise for teachers. The article reports:
“Three-point-nine percent over two years is a tank of gas a week – if that – for some people,” she said. “I’ll hold out for something that’s respectable because 3.9 percent isn’t respectable.”
Merryman did, however, provide a salary she considered respectable:
She said a reasonable salary for beginning teachers should fall between $55,000 to $60,000, something she based on college graduates’ salaries across professions. She said she thinks policymakers shouldn’t determine fair wages by comparing teacher salaries to other states’ salaries or the national average.
“We should look at salaries of people who are in professions requiring the same level of responsibility and the same educational requirements,” she said. “We’ve built a comparison that really does not help us in making the case for higher teacher salaries” (Emphasis added).
JLF’s Dr. Terry Stoops, on the other hand, remarked that the comparison may not be so reasonable:
Terry Stoops, director of education studies at the John Locke Foundation, said that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.
“If you’re comparing recipients of bachelor’s degrees, obviously some fields have higher demands for workers, and that’s going to skew the comparison,” he said.
That is to say, different degrees give way to different salaries. For instance, people with a bachelors in nuclear engineering are likely going to make more than people with a sociology degree, so to compare the salaries of all people with a bachelor’s degree is not exactly helpful for determining what a salary should be in your field. In addition, Stoops notes:
[I]t matters whether someone is comparing public and private sector jobs because there’s a meaningful difference.
If you choose to work in the public sector, you may not make as much money, but you may also receive a more robust benefits package than is offered in the private sector. The article goes on:
[Dr. Stoops] said he doesn’t think there’s a good way to measure how teacher pay compares across states because statewide averages depend on the experience levels of teachers, which can vary. He also said statewide average comparisons don’t usually factor in the cost of living.