Six years ago, a group of North Carolina business leaders released a report outlining state-level policies that would increase third-grade reading proficiency.
Today, the same group of North Carolina CEOs is once again advocating for an increase in funding for Pre-K, along with higher teacher pay.
The latest report, called, “Why Reading Matters and What to Do About It”, urges state lawmakers this session to increase teacher pay by “a meaningful amount” and to create a pipeline that recruits and retains highly qualified educators in the long term.
“We must have effective teachers equipped with a firm understanding of how young children learn to read, and we need those teachers in every classroom,” Huntley Garriott, president of Live Oak Bank in Wilmington, told EdNC. “Having those teachers in every classroom is going to be difficult because we have a very real teacher shortage.”
According to data from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, 5,540 vacancies on Day 1 of classes occurred this school year – a 46% increase from the 2021-22 school year. On Day 40, 5,091 vacancies still existed, up 58% from the prior year.
Factors such as measly pay raises, increasing censorship of classrooms and curriculum, lack of resources and support, along with fewer university students choosing the profession, have played into the ever-growing teacher shortage.
A report from BestNC assessing the 2020-21 school year found that North Carolina ranked 6th out of 13 states in the Southeast on average teacher pay. In addition, for beginning teachers, North Carolina ranked second to last with an average starting pay of $39,685.
“To address the impacts of rising inflation and teacher shortages in the pre-K program, we must take immediate steps to increase the amount paid to providers, and those increases started last year and have to continue,” Jim Hansen, regional president of PNC Bank, told EdNC. “The increases allow providers to cover the rising costs and maintain necessary staffing levels to support the needs of our children.”
The group of NC CEOs plans to meet with Republican lawmakers and Gov. Roy Cooper to advocate for increased teacher pay and further Pre-K investments. As of now, the House budget plan features 7.5% across-the-board teacher pay raises over the next two years.
Cooper’s budget proposal includes a minimum 10% teacher pay increase for all teachers in the first year of the biennium, a minimum of 6% in the second year, and calls for fully funding year three of the Leandro comprehensive plan.
The Senate will release its proposal next.