Commentary

Poll reveals strong support for higher teacher pay

There’s an article that’s worth your time to check out on the website Higher Education Works this week about the most recent High Point University poll on teacher pay. Here are some excerpts from “Strong support for raising NC teacher pay”:

“A poll released last week revealed overwhelming support among Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated North Carolinians for raising public school teacher pay to the national average….

The High Point University Poll found that 85 percent of North Carolinians agree that public school teachers are paid too little.

Further, 73 percent said they would be willing to pay more in taxes to raise average teacher pay in the state to the national average within five years. That included 72 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of unaffiliated residents.

Though North Carolinians like to think the ‘thank God for Mississippi’ days are long behind us, the state allowed teacher salaries to stagnate during and after the Great Recession until North Carolina ranked 47th in average teacher pay in 2013-14.

The state’s average teacher salary (which includes supplements provided by counties) has risen 12 percent over the past five years, however, and the NC Department of Public Instruction reported recently that the average salary reached $51,214 this school year.

Higher education leaders in North Carolina care about pay for K-12 teachers because better teachers prepare better college students, and UNC colleges of education are the single largest source of teachers in North Carolina, providing 44% of the state’s beginning teachers.

One feeds the other.

Yet the state’s colleges of education saw a 30% decline in enrollment from 2010-2015.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why….

One obvious competitor for the dollars needed to pay teachers better are the tax cuts Republican legislators have enacted since they took control of the legislature in 2011.

At a recent forum with civic, business and education leaders in Winston-Salem, [House Speaker Tim] Moore defended the tax cuts, noting that Forbes recently ranked North Carolina the number-one state in the country to do business.

But he also said he didn’t see a need to continue cutting taxes this year….

One business leader at the Winston-Salem event challenged state leaders to follow through with teacher pay the way they have with pledges to cut taxes and put the state’s fiscal house in order.

‘Give us a road map, and this state would be so enthusiastic if they were told, “In the next four years, we’re going from 35th to 20th,”’ businessman John Burress told Moore.  ‘You did it with taxes – why can’t you do it with education?’

…Legislators return to Raleigh May 16 for their even-year “short” session to make adjustments to the state budget.

That’s when they’ll have another chance to show just how committed they are to raising teacher pay in North Carolina.”

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