The Average NC Teacher Salary is $53,975. Here’s Why That is Misleading.

Rep. Jeffrey Elmore talked in an op-ed this past July about how great teacher pay has become in North Carolina over the last few years.

Besides never referring to the fact that furloughs and freezes were due to the Great Recession, Elmore clearly argues a fallacious talking point that seems to constantly need debunking.

He said,

When voters gave Republicans the majority in the General Assembly in 2011, North Carolina was ranked 47th in the nation in teacher pay — and due to decades of irresponsible spending and budgeting, school systems in the state were considering reduction in force. Hiring freezes and furloughs became a reality for our teachers. North Carolina is now 29th in the nation and second in the southeast in teacher pay.

So, here is a better look at what Rep. Elmore is almost talking about.

From the March 7, 2019 News & Observer about the average teacher pay in North Carolina:

The average salary for a North Carolina public school teacher has risen 5 percent to nearly $54,000 this year.

New figures released Wednesday by the state Department of Public Instruction estimate the average salary for teachers to be $53,975 — $2,741 more than the previous school year. The new number is 20 percent more than the $44,990 average salary five years ago.

According to DPI, North Carolina now ranks fourth in the Southeast in average teacher compensation, with Georgia being the highest at $56,392.

“These numbers are the result of record-breaking investments from Republicans in educators and students,” Pat Ryan, a spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger, said in a statement Wednesday. “Over the last five years, Republicans have provided teachers with five consecutive pay raises, and in three of those years the raises were at or near the top in the entire country.

“Once the facts are laid bare, it’s easy to see that attacks against Republicans over education spending are simply Democrats and their special interest allies playing politics.”

Well, then lets lay bare the facts of how that figure has come about.

The operative word here is “average.” What GOP stalwarts purposefully fail to tell you is that most of the raises have occurred at the very low rungs of the salary schedule. Of course, you can raise the salary of first year teachers by a few thousand dollars and it would give them an average raise of maybe 10-15%. You would only have to give veteran teachers a very small raise funded by longevity pay (which we no longer get) and the OVERALL average raise still looks good, and not much money has to be invested.

“Average” does not mean “actual.” But it sounds great to those who don’t understand the math.

This report reflects a whopping double standard of the NC General Assembly and a total contradiction to what is really happening to average teacher pay. Just follow my logic and see if it makes sense.

The last eight years have seen tremendous changes to teacher pay. For new teachers entering in the profession here in NC there is no longer any graduate degree pay bump, no more longevity pay (for anyone), and a changed salary schedule that only makes it possible for a teacher to top out on the salary schedule with at 52K per year.

salary

So how can that be the average pay in NC be over 53K when no one can really make much over 52K 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 of 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.

The “average bear” can turn into a bigger creature if allowed to be mutated by election year propaganda. That creature is actually a monster called the “Ignoramasaurus Rex” known for its loud roar but really short arms that keep it from having far reaching consequences.

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 53K then if current trends keep going.

Would Rep. Elmore care to debunk this?