North Carolina teacher pay is projected to climb two spots in the national rankings this year, although it should remain in the bottom third of the country, according to a national benchmark released Monday.
The nonpartisan National Education Association estimated the state’s educator pay would inch from 39th to 37th nationally, although it’s worth noting that the report’s estimates can be adjusted. Indeed, North Carolina was projected to be ranked 35th last year, although the new report says the state actually placed at 39th.
North Carolina’s average teacher salary, an estimated $50,861, would still lag the national average, which is projected to surpass $60,000 in 2018.
However, when adjusted for inflation, Monday’s report estimated North Carolina teacher pay fell more than 9 percent from 2009 through 2018. During that same time period, the national average slipped by about 4 percent.
Meanwhile, on another key measure, per-pupil spending in North Carolina is projected to rank 39th in the country in 2018. That’s the same ranking the state held in 2017 spending, according to Monday’s report, although that’s an increase from the 43rd position that last year’s NEA report estimated the state would hold in 2017.
Still, North Carolina’s per-pupil expenditure, an estimated $9,528 this year, will also trail the national average, which is just less than $12,000.
“I am glad to see that we are moving up in the rankings, but know that we still have a long way to go and are committed to further teacher pay raises,” Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican who co-chairs the House education appropriations committee, told Policy Watch Monday.
The N.C Association of Educators, which lobbies for teachers at the state legislature, issued a statement Monday morning slamming lawmakers for the news.
“Our students deserve public schools that have the resources they need to be successful and educators who are respected like the professionals they are,” said NCAE President Mark Jewell. “Instead of prioritizing corporate boardrooms, our elected leaders should be making critical investments in our classrooms.”
Jewell is likely referring to a series of corporate and personal income tax cuts handed down by the state legislature since 2013. At a time when K-12 advocates say leaders should be beefing up public education spending following massive recession-era cuts, the tax cuts cost the state more than $3 billion in state revenues annually.
With teachers protesting this year in states like Kentucky, West Virginia and Oklahoma, education spending has been on the front-burner in 2018.
One key measure in the report noted the national average on spending for schools’ operational expenses is down about a half-percentage point since 2009 when adjusted for inflation, although adjusted spending on school construction and maintenance has plunged by about 15 percent during that time.
State officials estimated North Carolina faces more than $8 billion in infrastructure needs of its own. And while the state’s local governments have historically been charged with funding capital needs, North Carolina lawmakers are under pressure to take up a $1.9 billion statewide school bond referendum this year.
North Carolina teachers aren’t likely to launch the kind of prolonged protests reported in other states this year, but educators are planning a May 16 rally in Raleigh to urge state lawmakers to spend more on schools. The NCAE is timing the rally with legislators’ planned return to session.
A spokesman for Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, fired a shot at the Republican-controlled General Assembly after the report’s release Monday.
“If the legislature would adopt Governor Cooper’s teacher pay proposals, then North Carolina could get to at least the national average a lot faster,” said Cooper spokesman Ford Porter. “We cannot accept this ranking because teachers must have professional pay, and students must have well qualified teachers.”