When Mark Johnson or Phil Berger Talk About “Average” Teacher Pay, They Fail to Mention…

Consider the following excerpt from the spring of 2018:

The average salary for a North Carolina teacher has increased to more than $50,000 a year for the first time.

Recently released figures from the state Department of Public Instruction put the average salary for a North Carolina public school teacher at $51,214 this school year. That’s $1,245 more than the previous school year.

The $50,000 benchmark has been a major symbolic milestone, with Republican candidates having campaigned in 2016 about how that figure had already been reached. Democrats argued that the $50,000 mark hadn’t been reached yet and that Republicans hadn’t done enough, especially for highly experienced teachers.

The average teacher salary has risen 12 percent over the past five years, from $45,737 a year. Since taking control of the state legislature in 2011, Republicans raised the starting base salary for new teachers to $35,000 and gave raises to other teachers (http://www.journalnow.com/news/state_region/n-c-teachers-are-now-averaging-more-than-a-year/article_e3fe232c-1332-5f6e-89e5-de7c428436fb.html ).

Below is the latest salary schedule for teachers in North Carolina.


Now that a new teacher in North Carolina cannot get a pay bump for a graduate degree, the most he/she will ever make in a career according to this schedule is 58,240 if he/she chooses to invest money into national certification (which NC used to pay for).

One might argue that this salary schedule will show increases in the years to come. That same argument could be made for all salaries; therefore, the average salary for anyone with a comparable educational background will rise as well.

But, it is different when it pertains to NC’s public school teachers.

How can that be the average pay in NC be over 50K when no one can really make much over 50K as a new teacher in his/her entire career unless they all become nationally certified (which takes a monetary investment by the teacher to start)?

Easy. North Carolina is counting all of the veteran teachers’ current salaries in that figure. The very people whose salaries simply disgusted the former governor and the General Assembly to the point that they had to take measures to “lower” them are actually being used to tout this new wonderful “average.”

Furthermore, this average is counting on local supplements. This comes in the face of budgets that are allocating less money to each central office of each school system for administrative costs. Now each county has to raise more money to actually offset those costs and also allow for local supplements. And not all localities provide the same supplements.

Plus, those LEA’s will have to do something in the next few years to raise even more money to meet the requirements for the delayed class size mandate.

Any veteran teacher who is making above 50K based on seniority, graduate pay, and national boards are gladly counted in this figure. It simply drives up the CURRENT average pay. But when these veteran teachers who have seniority, graduate pay, and possibly national certification retire (and many are doing that early at 25 years), then the very people who seem to be a “burden” on the educational budget leave the system.

In actuality, that would drive the average salary down as time goes on. If the top salary that any teacher could make is barely over 50K (some will have higher as National Board Certified Teachers, but not a high percentage), then how can you really tout that average salaries will be higher?

You can if you are only talking about the right here and right now.

Remember the word “average” is a very easy word to manipulate. Politicians use it well. In this case, the very teachers who are driving the “average” salary up are the very people that the state wants to not have in a few years. There will then be a new average. It can’t possibly be over 50K then if current trends keep going.

What follows is a chronological list of quotes, statistics, and other reports about teacher pay, the need to raise the teaching profession, and the walking contradiction that is State Superintendent Mark Johnson.

April 18, 2016:

According to media reports, average teacher pay in North Carolina ranks 42nd nationally. Last year, the state legislature increased starting teacher pay and gave teachers a one-time bonus of $750.

Atkinson said average principal pay in North Carolina public schools is 49th or 50th in the nation.

She said a 30 percent drop in enrollment in university and college teacher education programs statewide since 2010, was largely due to low teacher pay.
“Our teachers are better educated than ever today, but we’ve got challenges,” she said (http://www.journalpatriot.com/news/atkinson-teacher-shortage-looms/article_066628f0-0592-11e6-9d1f-97e69c4ecc03.html).

September 7, 2016:

“Most teachers and school leaders work tirelessly for their students despite the challenges. They are not to blame, and I am grateful to lawmakers in Raleigh (and my fellow board members in Forsyth County) for seeking much-needed, overdue raises for them.” – Mark Johnson (https://www.ednc.org/2016/09/07/our-american-dream/).

September 30, 2016:

Johnson supports continued salary increases, the teacher-leader model and increasing pay for teachers working in struggling schools. But Johnson said teachers also need better professional development opportunities and to be treated “like professionals” – Mark Johnson (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/education-candidates-spar-on-teacher-salaries-charter-schools-and-more/article_a75fbf84-9f8b-5a81-8ad3-8f4b24880b5d.html).

December 20, 2017:

“So, we worked with the General Assembly to secure $105 million for desperately needed new schools in our most economically disadvantaged counties and to reestablish NC Teaching Fellows scholarships to support future educators who will teach hard-to-staff subjects” – Mark Johnson (https://www.ednc.org/2017/12/20/north-carolina-public-schools-accelerating-2018/).

January 26, 2018:

The median weekly salary nationally for full-time workers between the age of 20 and 24 in the last quarter of 2017 was $528 a week, or $27,456 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It increased to $724 a week, or $37,648 a year, for people between the ages of 25 and 34 (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article196911774.html?__twitter_impression=true).

January 26, 2018:

But looking only at college graduates, students majoring in other professions reported much higher starting salaries than new teachers. The average salary for an education major in the Class of 2017 was $37,046 nationally, compared to $74,183 for computer science majors, $64,530 for engineering majors and $53,259 for math and statistics majors, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers(http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article196911774.html?__twitter_impression=true).

January 26, 2018:

During a question-and-answer session Thursday at the N.C. School Boards Association’s policy conference in Raleigh, Johnson said that the base state starting salary of $35,000 for North Carolina teachers was “good money” and “a lot of money” for people in their mid-20s (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article196911774.html?__twitter_impression=true).

January 26, 2018:

“But that $35,000 mark for a starting salary if you’re in your early 20s, that is really good, especially in some of our rural districts.” – Mark Johnson (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-defends-teacher-pay-comments-amid-criticism/17292076/).

January 26, 2018:

“Teaching is the most important job. It’s one of the most difficult. Without teachers, no one else has a profession.” – Mark Johnson (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-defends-teacher-pay-comments-amid-criticism/17292076/).

January 26, 2018: 

From Thad Ogburn of the N&O – @thadogburn

johnson salary

Yes, teachers have an argument that we need to receive higher salaries. But look at it in the light of what teachers receive in comparison to other professions that require a comparable educational background (4-year degree, etc.). Then make an honest decision about how important it is to keep great qualified teachers in the classroom for their entire careers.