About Mark Johnson’s Latest Letter of Empty Facts

Mark Johnson sent us another letter today filled with half-truths and intentionally unexplained “facts & figures” meant again to try and quell next week’s march and rally in Raleigh. He stated,

“We want to empower you with clear facts at your fingertips as we work together to improve public education in our state.”


Those “facts” deserve further explanation because as a trained lawyer, Johnson knows that exposing the full truth of statements made in the public arena about education (especially if he is the “elected leader of the public schools”) is important and that misrepresenting information to the client (people of the state) is rather unethical.

1. The average teacher salary in NC is now $54,000 per school year. In NC, the median teacher salary per school year is more than the median household income per year.

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


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.

Any veteran teacher who is making above 50K based on seniority, graduate pay, and national boards is 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 brag that average salaries will be higher in the future?

2. The average salary for a beginning teacher in NC is $39,300 per school year, which is more than the average starting salary for other college graduates and more than the median wage for individuals in North Carolina.*

Look at that salary table again. It is “front-loaded.” What would be a stronger indication of the strength of teachers’ salaries is not comparing just the first year, but increments of years. How do five year veterans compare to other five year workforce veterans? 10-year veterans? 20?

Johnson would also need to possibly explain the following data map and the research associated with it.


Plus, look how Johnson conveniently goes back and forth between comparing teacher salaries to median salaries of all North Carolinians to others who may have a college degree. He is trying to have the best of both worlds there.

Johnson could also take the time to measure average lifetime wages (30 year working career) of teachers against other comparably educated professionals. He would have to explain himself quite a bit.

3. The state sends $1,300 per teacher to schools for textbooks and supplies each school year.

First, $1,300 may buy around 20-25 textbooks, period.

For high schoolers.

Just go to a college bookstore and see what an average student’s expense for textbooks is for one semester. Rather, ask the parents.

Teachers today usually have about a 150 students a school year, at least in high school. It would take 6-7 years of that funding to buy an entirely new set of textbooks. Many of them become outdated or overused before that time is up – and we have not even touched on supplies.

Justin Parmenter did a wonderful piece on his blog Notes From the Chalkboard on supply spending. It included this graph.

The complete posting is very worth the read.

4. North Carolina has over 2,500 public schools that serve more than 1,500,000 students.

5. Our largest school district serves almost 160,000 students, making it the 15th largest district in the nation, while our smallest serves about 600 students.

If one looks at 4 and 5 together (as they are related), what Johnson is really proving here is that out state is growing. If it’s growing, then it needs to funded at a higher level. It’s not. Just look at per-pupil expenditures as adjusted for inflation over the last 10-12 years.

Plus, it’s funny that he refer to the Wake County school system when he talks about the state’s largest school district because Wake County has more nationally certified teachers than any other county in the country and yet Johnson is overseeing a tremendous amount of privatization efforts being materialized in Wake County itself with vouchers and charter schools.

Furthermore, Wake County was one of the first county systems to shut down for May 1st because of the extreme number of teachers, students, and parents who will be going to march in Raleigh because they disagree with what Johnson stands for. It was also one of the first to do so last year for May 16th.

6. North Carolina’s 115 school districts receive mostly state funding, while other states are divided into many smaller school districts that rely more heavily on local funding. (Pennsylvania, for example, has 500 school districts.)

Well, the state of North Carolina has to fund schools that way – it’s in the state constitution. And if Mark Johnson wants to talk about how Pennsylvania funds its schools and praise them for it, then he might want to respond to this:


This teacher trusts Bill Harrison about issues of education a hell of a lot more than a state superintendent who only speaks in half-truths.

But if Johnson “wants to encourage constructive discussions about our education system,” then I will be glad to talk with him. I’ll be in Raleigh on May 1st. He can find me on Halifax Mall.


3 thoughts on “About Mark Johnson’s Latest Letter of Empty Facts

  1. His concept of teacher salary is a half truth. If you go to the 2019 NC Highlights report, his number of $54k is based on an estimate for average teacher compensation done by dpi for that report for the current year. It even says it in the report that it is an estimate. It clearly shows where all the numbers come from. From base pay, new teacher orientation, bonus pay, even added money for teachers who work in juvenile detention centers. He touts it as salary, but it is not. Even his own department doesn’t call it that when doing the calculations.


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