The Average NC Teacher Salary Is Over $54,000? Here’s Why That Is Grossly Misleading.

From TeachNC (northcarolina.teach.org):

What they are advertising here is that the average salary for teachers in NC is a little under $55,000 / year.

That figure is one of the most grossly manufactured statistics in this state. Let’s lay bare the facts of how that figure has come about.

One operative word here is “average”. What GOP stalwarts who have in the past PRAISED this “average” purposefully fail to tell you is that most of the raises in teacher salaries in the last decade 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 also 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 ten 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 54K per year (unless they use their own money to pursue a rigorous national certification process).

So how can that be the average pay in NC be over 54K when no one can really make much over 54K 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. Imagine what the pandemic will be doing to these funds.

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 as it been the case for many cycles.

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 54K then if current trends keep going.

Even Terry Stoops knows that. For years, Stoops worked for the libertarian think tank John Locke Foundation. He now conveniently is an advisor for Catherine Truitt at DPI. From a report in the News & Observer in March of 2019:

Terry Stoops, vice president of research for the John Locke Foundation, says he agrees that the average teacher salary is misleading. But he questions why critics didn’t make more of an issue of its accuracy before Republicans began raising the state average.

“The fact that the average is influenced by factors such as the experience of teachers and the credentials that they possess is one of the reasons why the average is a misleading figure to use when discussing teacher compensation,” Stoops said. “But the problems preceded the Republicans.”

Interesting that he did not mention that the Republicans took away step increases and longevity pay and that they have been in power for almost a decade.