The N. C. Association of Educators (NCAE) responded Tuesday to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) that attribute a nationwide teacher retention crisis to a growing “pay penalty” between teachers and similarly qualified professionals.
EPI, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that focuses on economic policies impacting low-and middle-income workers, reports a “pay penalty” of 20% or higher between teachers and other professionals with comparable degrees in more than half of the nation’s states.
The report shows a 24.5 % “pay penalty” between North Carolina teachers and other comparable college-educated workers.
“Let’s be clear: North Carolina’s public schools are facing the same manufactured teacher retention crisis happening nationwide as a direct result of low teacher pay and inadequate funding,” said NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly said in a statement.
Walker Kelly noted that North Carolina is having difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers while sitting on a $6 billion dollar budget surplus.
“By any definition, claiming to have additional funds in strict defiance of multiple court orders to fulfill their fiduciary responsibility to public education, amounts to taking money directly from the hands of students, teachers, and school support staff,” Kelly said.
Like many states, North Carolina’s public schools are reporting historic teacher and staff shortages. Superintendents reported 11,297 teacher and staff vacancies in a recent N.C. School Superintendents Association survey with days left before the start of the new school year for students attending schools on a traditional calendar. Most of the state’s K-12 students attend schools on a traditional calendar.
The EPI report is timely, said Kelly, because it comes while state education leaders consider a proposal to overhaul teacher licensure and compensation standards to improve recruitment and retention. The Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission is expected to deliver a final draft of the proposed standard revisions to the State Board of Education next month.
The NCAE is opposed to the proposed pay standard, arguing that it’s akin to merit pay because it links teacher pay, in part, to student scores on standardized tests. The teacher advocacy organization is also concerned about a licensure provision to allow people with associate’s degrees to teach while earning a bachelor’s degree.
“The current teacher retention crisis is not about our licensure system,” Kelly added. “It’s disingenuous to say so, and unethical for our state’s highest-ranking education officials to do so in support of a deeply flawed and unpopular plan to de-professionalize teaching.”
State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, State Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis and other supporters of the proposed teacher and licensure standards revisions deny that it would move the state to a merit pay model.
“There’s simply not enough tested subjects to base compensation on student testing,” Davis said. “However, there are countless teachers in all years of experience across our state who today are creating positive outcomes for their students and who are not being sufficiently recognized, learned from or rewarded for their great work.”