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How many teachers come to North Carolina to teach compared to those who leave for teaching jobs in other states?  Should North Carolina be thinking of quitting the exporting and just focusing in on the importing?


Last week, the NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released the state’s annual teacher turnover report.  The overall turnover rate for the 2014-2015 school year climbed to 14.84 percent, a 0.7 percent increase from a year prior.  The release of the report generated extensive media coverage, a great deal of discussion on social media, and a fair share of political theater.

As I mentioned in my previous newsletter, only a fraction of those counted as "turnover" actually make a conscious choice to leave the teaching profession.  Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest recently pointed out that only 6.8 percent of teachers voluntarily left the profession last year, which is much lower than some estimated national averages.  The other 8 percent moved to other positions in education, retired with full benefits, or did not have their contracts renewed.  The bottom line is that the rate of actual turnover, while an important metric for policymakers, is hardly cause for alarm.

Even so, public school advocacy organizations and their allies contend that the slight increase in the overall teacher turnover rate, coupled with the suspect WalletHub ranking of the Best and Worst States for Teachers, prove that North Carolina is no longer a desirable destination for teachers.  They say that Republican education policies have sullied our state’s reputation in the eyes of the nation’s educators and humanity generally.

One of the many problems with that claim is that the number of out-of-state teacher licenses awarded to incoming teachers appears to refute it.  North Carolina has licensed thousands of out-of-state teachers over the last five years, easily eclipsing the number of teachers who resigned to teach elsewhere by more than 6,000 teachers (See Table 1).  Simply put, North Carolina is a net importer of teachers.

With apologies to the great Neil Diamond — They’re coming to Carolina.

Between 2010 and 2014, 8,500 out-of-state teachers received North Carolina teaching licenses (via interstate reciprocity agreements) and were employed as classroom teachers in North Carolina the following school year.  During the same period, around 2,200 teachers abandoned North Carolina to teach in other states.  It is not known how many of those teachers return to the state after finding that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but the phenomenon is not unheard of.

Moreover, despite a slight dip in 2014, the number of licenses granted to out-of-state teachers has been on the rise in recent years.  Overall there was a 68 percent increase in the number of out-of-state licenses granted between 2010 and 2014 (See Table 1).

Table 1. Outgoing and incoming teachers by school year

School year

Licenses granted to out-of-state teachers (employed the next year)

Teachers who resigned to teach in another state



























Note: This table does not include visiting international faculty, teachers who received a license but delayed entry into the public school workforce, teachers who obtained a license by means other than an interstate reciprocity agreement, and those who entered a teacher education program at a North Carolina institution upon entering the state and subsequently applied for a North Carolina teaching license.  Data for the 2014-2015 school year are not available at this time due to the absence of payroll data used to determine employment.  I’d like to extend a sincere thanks to the folks at DPI’s Financial and Business Services division for their responsiveness and assistance.



Obviously statistics cannot capture the specific reasons why teachers decide to leave or relocate to North Carolina.  And no two teachers will base their decisions on identical criteria because no two teachers have the same values, preferences, and goals. If they did, teacher recruitment and retention would be a cinch.  Instead, lawmakers have the formidable task of creating and maintaining conditions that make teaching and living in North Carolina as broadly appealing as possible.  That is why the NC General Assembly should continue to lower tax burdens, as well as initiate a multi-year effort of awarding targeted pay increases to teachers.

Acronym of the Week

FOND — Friends of Neil Diamond

Quote of the Week

"At a meeting of Governor McCrory’s education cabinet last week, Andre Peek, director of Global Technology Services at IBM and chair of the North Carolina Business Committee for Education asserted that North Carolina is now a "net exporter of teachers."

It’s an observation Peek has made from working groups in which he has participated and in his travels across the state. It’s not rooted in data–yet, he told N.C. Policy Watch."

– Lindsay Wagner, "Is North Carolina a net exporter of teachers?" N.C. Policy Watch, September 26, 2013

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