With the delayed release of the House budget proposal, legislative leaders have had ample opportunity to address the many shortfalls of the Senate budget proposal. Ideally, House leadership will take a more responsible approach towards funding future class-size requirements, resisting expansion of unaccountable voucher programs, and the dismantling of the Department of Public Instruction. However, the best opportunity for House leadership to improve upon the Senate budget proposal may involve a more enlightened and ambitious approach towards teacher pay.
According to recently released estimates from the National Education Association, North Carolina’s average teacher pay ranking improved from 41st to 35th. North Carolina’s improved ranking is good news, but the average pay ranking is not very useful for determining what type of pay is needed to attract and retain the best and the brightest into the profession. Instead, policymakers need to look at how North Carolina teacher salaries compare with the salaries of other professionals in North Carolina whose jobs have similar college-level education requirements. Countries with high-performing education systems such as South Korea, Finland, and Singapore offer teacher salaries that are competitive with other professions. By contrast, North Carolina’s teacher salaries are only about 57 to 65 percent of other college graduates in the state. According to this more useful measure of teacher salary competitiveness, North Carolina ranks 49th.
Given the woeful state of teacher salary competitiveness, the primary goal of any House teacher pay proposal should be focusing on increasing teacher salaries across the board. The Senate’s plan would provide teachers average raises just under 3.8 percent. By contrast, Governor Cooper’s budget proposal would provide teachers average raises of 6.2 percent. With additional creativity, House leadership could certainly afford an even more ambitious teacher pay plan. Read more