Sen. Kathy Harrington Penned An Op-Ed About Teacher Pay In NC -It’s Grossly Misleading

This past Monday in the Charlotte Observer, state senator Kathy Harrington from Gaston County penned an op-ed entitled “NC Republicans have provided meaningful teacher raises.

She begins:

For years, Democrats have seized upon teacher pay as an electioneering tool to convince people to vote for them.

The logic goes something like this: Teachers educate your children, North Carolina Republicans haven’t provided teachers with “meaningful” raises, therefore you should support Democrats.

Here’s the problem with that logic: North Carolina Republicans provided teachers with the third-highest pay raises in the entire country since 2014. If that’s not truly meaningful, what is?

She also sprinkles other misleading claims throughout her op-ed in the newspaper of the state’s largest city in what might be the most important elections year we have seen in our lifetimes.

And all the while she deliberately does not tell you of other actions made by her and her political cronies in the North Carolina General Assembly that allow for her argument to premise its logic on appearances.

Why? Because the reality is much different.

Here is the rebuttal that has been sent to the Charlotte Observer for consideration:

Sen. Kathy Harrington’s recent words about teacher pay (“NC Republicans have provided meaningful teacher raises“) are not as truthful as she claims. Her biased version of events deliberately mistakes appearance with reality.

In her op-ed she states, “Since Republicans took control of the legislature, North Carolina’s average teacher pay has increased from 47th in the country to 29th.

The state senator bases her argument on “average” teacher pay in NC, a figure that is one of the most grossly misinterpreted statistics in this state. The operative word here is “average.” What Harrington purposefully fails to tell you is that most of the raises since 2014 have occurred at the very low rungs of the salary schedule. You can raise the salary of first year teachers by a few thousand dollars and it would give them an average raise of perhaps 10-15%. You would only have to give veteran teachers a very small raise and the OVERALL “average” raise still looks good. 

However, “average” does not mean “actual.” 

The last ten years have seen tremendous changes to North Carolina teacher pay. For new teachers entering the profession here in NC, there is no longer a graduate degree pay bump, no more longevity pay, and an altered scale that only makes it possible for a teacher to top out on the present salary schedule with around 54K per year. 

So how can it be that the average pay in NC is over 54K when no one can really make much over 54K as a new teacher in his/her entire career?

Easy. Harrington and her cohorts are 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 wonderful “average.” 

Furthermore, this average is counting on local supplements. Local school districts have to raise the money to fund those, and not all localities provide the same supplements. Some can not provide a supplement at all. Harrington never mentions that. Nor did she mention that the “highest pay raise in the country in 2014” for NC teachers was largely financed by the elimination of longevity pay for veteran teachers. Nor does she mention that the current salary schedule she seems to brag about cannot begin to sustain an average pay that is the “second-highest in the southeast.” 

Remember the word “average” is a very easy word to manipulate. In this case, the very teachers who are driving the “average” salary up are the very people the state wants to not have in a few years. There will then be a new average. It can’t possibly be over 54K then if current trends keep going. 

Harrington should know this. She’s a five term senator and one of the Senate’s budget writers.

Since Harrington has been in office she has helped remove due process rights for new teachers, created a greater reliance on standardized tests, eliminated class-size caps, instituted a punitive school grading system, and fostered unregulated charter school growth and vouchers. North Carolina has also seen a drop in teacher candidates of over 30% during her tenure. 

That June 22nd op-ed ended with the following statement: “Politically-minded operators will keep spinning half-truths to convince you of a reality that simply doesn’t exist.”

Ironic that Sen. Harrington is the “politically-minded operator” trying to “spin” a “good story” in this election year.