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National Education Association’s New US Teacher Pay Rankings Show Mostly Bad News for NC Educators

Source: The News & Observer

A new report released earlier this month by the National Education Association (NEA) had some good news – and bad – regarding teacher pay in North Carolina, The News & Observer reported.

The state remains ranked near the bottom nationally in salaries for both new and experienced educators, but North Carolina did move up four spots to 42nd in the country in beginning teacher pay. According to the NEA, the state fell to 38th in the U.S. in overall teacher pay last school year.

Legislators and education groups often use the NEA salary rankings as a measuring stick to gauge if teacher pay in the state is sufficient.

“The latest data shows North Carolina again trailing our neighboring states like Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia on critical measures like per-student spending and average teacher pay,” Tamika Walker Kelly, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said. “North Carolina even fell two spots in the teacher pay rankings to 38th. Until we raise teacher pay to at least the national average and fully fund our public schools, North Carolina is giving our youngest generation less than they deserve.”

The national average starting teacher salary is $44,530 – more than $4,000 higher than new teachers make in North Carolina, who get paid a paltry $40,136. Shockingly, that’s an improvement from last year’s report – which ranked the state 46th – with an average salary of $37,646. North Carolina’s base salary for a new teacher will rise to $41,000 next school year, but that’s still more than 8% lower than the national average.

According to NEA estimates, the average salary for a teacher in North Carolina is around $58,292, which is a 3% increase from the 2022-23 school year. Even with the increase, the state’s ranking continues to drop. North Carolina was ranked 36th in average teacher pay in the 2021-22 school year, 38th last year and is now 41st. Many North Carolina teachers say they make less than the state average, according to The News & Observer.

Only Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia rank below North Carolina, according to NEA estimates.

Nationally, the NEA estimates the average teacher salary is now $71,699 — up 3% from last school year. But, after adjusting for inflation, the NEA says U.S. teachers are making on average 5% less than they did 10 years ago.

As long as Republicans have a supermajority in the state legislature teacher pay will likely continue to be an issue here. Last year’s budget gave teachers an average raise of 7% over two years. When broken down, the raises over 10% only went to beginning teachers and the state’s most experienced teachers will only see a 3.6% raise.

With around $1.4 billion in revenue surplus for this year, legislators have the chance to raise teacher pay to an adequate level. Gov. Roy Cooper’s new proposed budget calls for an 8.5% raise in teacher pay for this year, plus $1,500 retention bonuses for many public school educators.

The state has more than enough money to give teachers a significant raise and also provide public schools with funding to add positions of need. Democrats have been outspoken in their desire to see a chunk of the surplus money go to public schools and teachers. For their part, Republicans are working to add $463 million to a private school voucher program that is siphoning taxpayer money from public schools to send the children of wealthy parents to private schools at a steep discount.

According to Cooper, the money Republicans will use for their private school voucher program would be enough to cover 8.5% average raises, $1,500 bonuses for most public school teachers, plus the restoration of extra pay for teachers with advanced degrees, as well as hundreds of new teaching assistants, nurses, counselors and psychologists in public schools.

Cooper called the Republicans’ plan “larceny.”

It’s shockingly irresponsible. If they tell you they don’t have the money, that’s wrong. This is all about priorities,” he added.

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