by Dr. Robert Luebke
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
That annual treasure trove of data from North Carolina public schools, Highlights of the North Carolina Public School Budget, 2021 was recently released. Highlights as the document is frequently called, is often cited for its data on teacher salaries.
My colleague Terry Stoops posted on insightful article regarding stagnant teacher pay in North Carolina and how Democrats and the pandemic are to blame.
Highlights also provides helpful information on a subject that often gets left out of the discussion on teacher pay: benefits.
Benefits are defined as health insurance, retirement and social security.
Last year I highlighted a decade-long rise in the value of teacher benefits.
With the release of 2021 Highlights, that trend continues. While 2021 average teacher salary is estimated to be $54,392, up 16.7 percent since 2011, the value of benefits ( healthcare, retirement and social security), has risen an eye-popping 66.3 percent since 2011. Those numbers have been fueled by steady increases in state costs for retirement. In 2011 retirement costs per employee averaged about 10.51 percent of average salary. In 2021, the same figure had increased to 21.68 percent.
Those increases fuel the rising value of teacher benefits.
In 2011, benefits were 28.7 percent of average teacher salary. Today, benefits comprise 40.9 percent of average teacher salary and are valued $22,278. Average teacher compensation (salary and benefits) totals $76,670.
And no one is talking about that number.
What’s driving some of those costs? A recent paper by John Locke Foundation Senior Fellow, Joe Coletti and the Reason Foundation reviews the major challenges facing the state retirement system and a range of possible options to secure the health and viability of the state retirement system for the future.
Isn’t it time to start thinking about teacher pay and teacher benefits as essential parts of a much broader –but more accurately named topic — teacher compensation?