by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
The National Education Association released “Rankings and Estimates: Rankings of the States 2016 and Estimates of School Statistics 2017” on Wednesday. According to the report, North Carolina’s unadjusted average teacher pay is ranked 35th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This is a huge improvement since last year, that is, when the state’s average salary was 41st in the nation. My preliminary calculations indicate that North Carolina’s average teacher salary, when adjusted for cost of living, ranks 31st in the nation.
The improvement was the result of targeted investments in teacher salaries since 2014. Over the last three school years, lawmakers awarded average raises of 7.0 percent, 2.1 percent, and most recently 4.7 percent, in addition to performance bonuses for certain subject- and grade-level teachers. The Senate budget released earlier this week includes a 3.7 percent increase in teacher pay for the coming year and a planned 9.5 percent increase over the next two years. I would not be surprised to see the House propose a budget that would award even larger increases.
Rather than highlighting this improvement or thanking lawmakers for their commitment to raising teacher salaries, the N.C. Association of Educators held a press conference calling on the General Assembly to increase per-pupil funding “to the national average” and providing funding for teachers of elective courses, which are not at risk for the coming the year. Their allies on the Left adopted a similar strategy, burying news of the state’s dramatic rise in the NEA ranking to complain of “underinvestment” in public education. The truth is that no amount of taxpayer money spent on district schools would satisfy them.
Funny how little the newest national ranking of teacher pay seems to matter to folks who talked and wrote about it incessantly when North Carolina’s average salary rank fell to the mid-40s in the years following the Great Recession and, more importantly, the election of a Republican legislative majority in 2010.