Whether or not North Carolina teachers are making $50,000 has become the key talking point of the 2016 election season. One frequently running ad from the McCrory campaign states that “average teacher pay next year will be over $50,000.” Is this claim true?
A recent fact check at WRAL does a good job of covering this complex topic, correctly concluding “we won’t actually know whether the state hit that point until December.” As explained in a previous post, it is difficult to predict the impact a budget will have on the average salaries of teachers in the subsequent year. It is possible that average teacher salaries will exceed $50,000 in FY 16-17.
However, the question addressed by the WRAL fact-check “will average salaries exceed $50,000?” is different from the one posed by other claims made by McCrory and North Carolina Republicans: “did the 2016 Budget increase average teacher salaries above $50,000?” The first question – as correctly noted by WRAL – is dependent upon teacher turnover. While it is unlikely that average teacher salaries will exceed $50,000, we’ll find out the definitive answer to that question in December when the appropriate data is collected by the Department of Public Instruction. The second question, however, is one that can be answered now (and in the negative) via simple math:
- Every 1% increase in average teacher salaries costs $54.2 million
- The 2016 Budget provides $205.8 million for teacher pay increases
- That’s enough money to increase average salaries by 3.8%
- Average salary in FY 15-16 (including local supplements) was $47,931
- A 3.8% increase would bring average teacher salaries to $49,751
If average teacher salaries hit $50,000, there will be a hole in the budget of approximately $24 million. Based on this math, the Budget fails to provide for teacher salaries exceeding $50,000. Additionally, the failure to include funding sufficient to bring average teacher salaries above $50,000 puts to lie the notion that either the General Assembly or the Governor’s Office is actually anticipating that average teacher salaries will exceed $50,000. Their campaign ads say one thing, but their budget is saying another.
So will North Carolina’s average teacher salaries exceed $50,000? It’s certainly possible, but unlikely. For average teacher salaries to exceed $50,000, teacher turnover would need to be far lower than what has been observed in years’ past.
Does the 2016 Budget bill bring average teacher salaries above $50,000? Definitely not. The budget only provides enough funding to support an increase in average salaries to approximately $49,751. While this is close to $50,000, it is still below $50,000. If average salaries exceed $50,000, there will be a hole in the budget of approximately $24 million.
No matter where average salaries shake out, is still clear that North Carolina’s teacher salary levels fall well short of the levels required to recruit the best and the brightest into teaching. While North Carolina’s teacher salaries compare unfavorably to other states, the data is even more dire when teacher salaries are compared to other industries in North Carolina. Recent analysis from the Economic Policy Institute indicates that North Carolina ranks 49th in terms of teacher salary competitiveness. No matter where average teacher salaries shake out this year, it’s clear that there is still much more work to be done.