Teacher pay; in North Carolina, it’s the topic that never goes away.

Last week the State Board of Education, approved a resolution asking lawmakers to support teacher pay raises in excess of 10 percent or more.  

How much would it cost to adopt such a proposal? 

People in the know tell me a pay raise of 1 percent for teachers costs North Carolina about $69 million dollars.  A ten percent pay raise, costs North Carolina approximately $690 million.  

How much is $690 million? Last year (2021-22),  total current operating expenditures for Forsyth County Schools, .the fourth largest school district in North Carolina,  was. $679 million.

Yes, North Carolina teachers deserve to be fairly compensated.  Why so many feel they aren’t are tied to factors beyond the scope of this post. Still, before the annual discussion in teacher pay begins, I’d like to interject two points. 

First, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, average teacher pay in the state was $57,805 in 2022-23, that’s up from $56,001 last year.  North Carolina average teacher pay ranks third in the Southeast.

Second, let’s not forget since 2020, North Carolina has received $6.2 billion in federal covid relief funds. According to data from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, North Carolina has spent about $4 billion, about $1.9 billion  has been spent on salaries.. Of that amount, almost $1.1 billion was spent on “Bonus Pay”,  another $343 million was allocated for “Employee Benefits.”   

Third, any honest discussion about teacher pay must also include a discussion on benefits.  Like most places, the cost of benefits in North Carolina has been rising. That trend significantly impacts how much state and local communities can spend on teachers.

In 2022-23, the average teacher in North Carolina earned $57,805 in salary. In addition, teachers received health insurance ($7,397) retirement benefits ($14, 162) and of course, social security contributions,($4,422). Adding those totals produces a benefits package valued at $25,981.

That means the average teacher has a total compensation package – salary and benefits — of $83,786.

In 2013, the value of benefits for the average salary was $15,243. Today it’s almost $26,000.

Yes, what and how we pay teachers is important. Discussions however which only talk about pay raises and ignore the rising cost of benefits do a disservice to the public they purport to serve.