For N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, last week was one to forget.
His comments at a Raleigh conference, in which he reportedly argued that a $35,000 salary is “good money” for some beginning teachers, earned him a sharp rebuke from many of his toughest critics.
And while the superintendent’s office clarified that Johnson meant to refer to teachers living in certain locales with relatively low household incomes, the controversy prompted the leadership of the N.C. Association of Educators, the state’s largest teacher advocacy organization, to break longstanding tradition by declaring that Johnson would not be invited to their annual conference this March.
That controversy looms over Johnson’s monthly video message this week, during which the superintendent says raising teacher pay is one of his top legislative priorities in 2018.
“This year, my team and I will be working with the General Assembly to invest even more in K-12,” Johnson said. “Some of our top priorities are continuing to increase educator pay, expanding personalized learning and expanding early childhood education to make sure students are ready when they start school. And yes, we are working with the General Assembly on the current class size legislation.”
Johnson asks for teachers to share their perspectives on General Assembly goals through the state’s Educators Perspectives Survey, which focuses on post-secondary and career options in February.
In recent years, lawmakers approved raises after the state’s teacher pay ranking fell near the bottom of the nation. Today, it sits at a modest 35th, according to one national estimate, although lawmakers are expected to consider raises again during this year’s legislative session.
However, the state’s per-pupil spending remains mired at 43rd in the nation, with K-12 advocates pressing lawmakers to boost spending on a range of classroom needs, including textbooks and materials, support for poor and rural school districts and the state’s top school agency, the Department of Public Instruction.
Johnson, a Republican elected in 2016, has been criticized for remaining relatively quiet on these issues, although he’s suggested that he prefers to negotiate behind the scenes with the GOP-controlled General Assembly.
Watch Johnson’s full monthly message below: