At a recent breakfast at Brevard College, Senator Chuck Edwards stated that teachers’ salaries are higher than that of the average worker in North Carolina.
This kind of fuzzy math has become a standard GOP talking point, because I’ve heard it in other places as well. The first issue here is that you can’t compare teachers to many other workers because teachers must have a four- or six-year degree in order to get a job. If we’re including the salaries of people who work at one of Edwards’ McDonald’s restaurants, jobs that don’t require an advanced degree, then Edwards would be right. The other issue is that certain counties, like Wake and Mecklenburg, offer a supplement to teacher’s incomes because of the higher cost of living there.
Edwards’ average salary numbers are inflated because he’s taking credit for those local supplements as part of his 'average rise' in salaries.
Over the last decade, the average local supplement to teacher pay rose over 31 percent, while the state portion of teacher pay increased just 10 percent. When General Assembly leaders tout increases in teacher pay, they’re mostly just taking credit for the efforts of some county governments and local school boards. Legislative increases in teacher pay haven’t even kept up with inflation over the last decade, and in fact - taking inflation into account - the value of their pay has actually fallen by 9.4 percent since 2009.
When discussing teacher salaries, a more accurate figure would be the average state-funded teacher pay - $49,371. That’s the average for what all teachers receive no matter the school district in the state. Ten years ago, that average was $44,860.
“Let’s remember that a year ago, thousands of teachers protested in Raleigh to demand better funding for schools – both for their students and for themselves. When you adjust for inflation, per-student public education funding remains 5.4 percent below pre-recession levels. We have a long way to go.
North Carolina’s teachers are paid just 64.5 percent of what other similarly qualified full-time workers with at least a bachelor’s degree in the state receive – even worse than the 76.2 percent ratio nationwide. According to the National Education Association, North Carolina ranks 39 out of 50 in the nation for teacher pay rates, and sixth out of the twelve states in the Southeast. Let’s get that number up, let’s stop using fuzzy math, and let’s make sure that our schools, teachers and students are in the best possible position to succeed.