Policy Position

Teaching Profession

in Education


No system of public education can thrive without a high-quality teacher workforce. The problem is that state education bureaucracies enforce rules and regulations that fail to distinguish excellent teachers from poor ones. Indeed, a large body of research shows that certification status, advanced degrees, years of experience, education school courses, and teacher test scores are unreliable indicators of teacher quality.

Our continued use of experience- and credential-based teacher salary schedules means, for example, that some superb educators are making less money than mediocre ones, simply because they have fewer years of experience, lack an advanced degree, or fail to obtain a specialized certification. In the end, the current system does little to encourage our best public school teachers to stay in the classroom.

Across-the-board salary and benefits increases may attract some to the profession, but targeted increases are a much better long-term strategy for improving quality. That said, the state’s capacity to recruit and retain teachers depends on more than just compensation. Educators choose to teach in (or leave) North Carolina for any number of personal and professional reasons. It is equally important for lawmakers to ensure that the state maintains a low cost of living, a strong economy, and superior quality of life.

Key Facts

  • During the 2016-17 school year, North Carolina public school districts employed over 94,300 full-time teachers. Public charter schools employed around 5,700 teachers.
  • Approximately 28 percent of North Carolina teachers earned an advanced degree, and around 22 percent obtained National Board Certification.
  • N.C. Department of Public Instruction data show that teacher pay has increased 105.7 percent since 1998. This outpaced the 41.8 percent increase in state employee salaries and the 57.5 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index during that period.
  • According to the state salary schedule for the 2017-18 school year, teachers on the typical 10-month contract had a base salary range of $35,000 for a beginning teacher with a bachelor’s degree to $65,120 for a teacher with a doctorate, National Board Certification, and over 25 years of experience.
  • In addition to their state-mandated base salary, most teachers receive an annual salary supplement from their local school district. The average salary supplement was nearly $4,337 per teacher in 2018. Six school districts provide no local salary supplement. Wake County Schools offered the state’s largest average supplement at nearly $8,500 per teacher.
  • For the 2017-18 school year, average teacher pay was $51,214. Matching benefits for teachers add 7.65 percent for Social Security, 17.13 percent for retirement, and $5,869 for hospitalization to their base salary.  To put a value on the benefits package, the average teacher receives approximately $17,500 in annual Social Security, retirement, and hospitalization benefits.
  • According to the 2017 State of the Teaching Profession in North Carolina report, the teacher attrition rate for the state’s 115 school districts was 8.65 percent. The rate includes teachers who retired or resigned due to personal circumstances.  The mobility rate, that is, those who resigned to teach in another North Carolina public school, was 4.8 percent.
  • State of the Teaching Profession reported that, on average, teachers who leave North Carolina public schools are less effective than those who remain, even when years of experience are considered.



  1. Broaden the teacher applicant pool by loosening or eliminating certification and licensure requirements. Although the state puts a premium on licensure, advanced degrees, and National Board Certification, there is little evidence that these factors improve teacher quality or raise student achievement.
  2. Implement a comprehensive performance and incentive pay system that will pay a portion of teachers’ salary based on the value that they add to their students’ learning. North Carolina’s salary schedule is based on years of experience and credentials, neither of which are sound indicators of teacher quality. Rather, the state should consider expanding the availability of performance-based pay based on student growth, which is generated annually by a computer program called EVAAS (Education Value Added Assessment System). While not perfect, research suggests that value-added analysis is the most accurate teacher evaluation tool available.
  3. Improve the quality of education school graduates by raising program admissions standards, increasing subject-area course requirements, and providing rigorous instruction in research-based teaching methods. While a handful of institutions in the University of North Carolina System consistently produce outstanding educators, others do not.


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We are North Carolina’s Most Trusted and Influential Source of Common Sense. The John Locke Foundation was created in 1990 as an independent, nonprofit think tank that would work “for truth, for freedom, and for the future of North Carolina.” The Foundation is named for John Locke (1632-1704), an English philosopher whose writings inspired Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders.

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