As educators and advocates from across the state meet with lawmakers during tomorrow’s Rally for Respect, they will undoubtedly face several planned talking points meant to deflect from the General Assembly’s poor track record on public education. The responses below will hopefully assist public school advocates in overcoming the most common General Assembly excuses for its failure to adequately fund our public schools and its failure to provide competitive pay for teachers.
1. The claim: “Per-student funding has increased every year”
The facts: Nominal funding increases have not kept pace with increased enrollment and inflation. Per-student funding remains 7% below pre-Recession levels when adjusted for inflation.
Of the 24 biggest funding allotments prior to the recession, 19 remain below their pre-Recession levels. That means:
- Less funding for teachers;
- Less funding for support staff like counselors, school psychologists, nurses and librarians;
- 7,500 fewer state-funded teacher assistants;
- A 51%reduction in per-student funding for textbooks, supplies, and technology; and
- The elimination of state funding for professional development and mentoring.
Over the same time period, our students are facing greater challenges, with an increasing share of public school students coming from low-income families, from homes where English is not the primary language, and from households that have experienced early childhood trauma.
Other states continue to pull away from North Carolina. Prior to the Recession, North Carolina’s per-student school funding trailed the national average by 18%. Today, North Carolina trails the national average by 25 percent. We’re even 25% below South Carolina!
2. The claim: “We’ve given five straight years of pay increases / How much teacher pay is enough?”
The facts: We still aren’t close to where we need to be to attract and retain the state’s best talent into the teaching profession. North Carolina has failed to close the gap on the national average since control of the General Assembly flipped in 2011. North Carolina’s average teacher salary trailed the national average by 16% in FY 10-11, and continues to trail the national average by 16% today. We actually would have lost ground against the national average had local districts not increased their local teacher salary supplements over this period.
Finally, our most experienced teachers have had their salaries frozen in recent years. Approximately 3,742 teachers (those on steps 31 and higher) have seen their state-supported salaries fall in inflation-adjusted terms.
North Carolina’s teacher pay will be enough when we offer teachers pay packages that are competitive with other college-degree-requiring professions in the state. Countries with successful education systems provide their educators with salaries comparable to the salaries of other college-degree-requiring professions. By this measure, North Carolina ranked 48th for teacher salary competitiveness from 2011 to 2015. Providing competitive pay will require raising North Carolina teacher salaries above the national average – a mark we still trail by 16%.
3. The claim: “When adjusted for cost-of-living, North Carolina ranks 29th for teacher pay”
The facts: Cost-of-living adjustments are an inappropriate way to make cross-state comparisons of teacher pay. The higher cost-of-living in North Carolina’s cities largely reflects the relative attractiveness of life in places like Raleigh and Charlotte, which bids down wages in those areas. The more appropriate measure is looking at how teacher pay compares to other college-degree-requiring professions in each state. By this measure, North Carolina offers some of the least competitive teacher pay in the nation. Contrary to what the uninformed folks at right-wing think tanks would tell you, North Carolina’s teacher pay is actually worse – not better – than what simple national rankings would indicate.
4. The claim: “We already dedicate 57% of the budget to education / ranks 14th in terms of share of school funding from state sources”
The facts: The share of the budget going to education tells us nothing about whether educators have the resources necessary to educate to every North Carolina student. The actual share going to our public schools is 39%, a share that has remained relatively consistent over the past 10 years.
Similarly, North Carolina’s share of funding from state sources is necessarily high due to constitutional and statutory requirements. Few states constitutions’ place as much responsibility for funding public schools on the state as does North Carolina’s. In North Carolina, state laws place all of the responsibility for school operating expenses on the state. Other states place much more funding responsibility on local governments.
These statistics, however, tell us nothing about whether educators are receiving the resources necessary to educate every North Carolina student. Our stagnating test scores and widening achievement gaps would indicate that our schools require more investment.
5. The claim: “We rank 1st in teacher wage growth in 2017, and 2nd in teacher wage growth in 2018.”
The facts: Speaker Moore has attributed these figures to data from the NEA, but the data from the NEA tell a different story. According to data from the NEA, North Carolina ranked 40th in 2016, 2nd in 2017, and 17th in 2018. It is unclear where Speaker Moore’s figures are coming from, but his figures are not consistent with the data he claims he’s using.
Regardless, these statistics are not sufficient to make up for the first five post-Recession budgets when North Carolina’s year-over-year changes to average teacher pay ranked 50th (09-10), 43rd (10-11), 47th (11-12), 45th (12-13), and 49th (13-14). Read more