The February 6 Daily Political Briefing by the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) resorts to misleading statements about teacher pay in an unsuccessful attempt to refute a March 2011 Civitas Institute article about why North Carolina should find a better way to pay teachers.
NCAE charges that teacher pay is decreasing because salaries attributed to individual steps (years of teaching experience) have actually been lowered over the last three years. It is true for the past three years the state legislature has chosen to freeze teacher salaries However, those actions did not preclude teachers from gaining step increases – even if the salary amounts remained the same.
For example, a standard step 5 teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no additional certification in 2010-11 made $32,640. This year the same teacher would qualify as a step 6 teacher, but would still make $32,640. The salary freeze does not require teachers to remain at the same step or to take a lower salary.
The NCAE criticism is disingenuous. Legislative actions froze salaries and altered step increases to ensure individual teachers would make the same salary the following year. NCAE criticism does not change the fact that teacher salaries are still tied to years of experience and academic credentials.
NCAE notes that teachers have not had a raise in three years. Pay freezes in 2009-10 and 2010-11 were part of the state budget process approved by two Democratic legislatures and signed off by a Democratic governor. NCAE’s vocal opposition to this year’s education budget makes the organization’s silence the past two years all the more telling.
To illustrate their alleged point and to underscore the difficulty of teachers everywhere, NCAE highlights the plight of a high school teacher in the Guilford County Schools. However, the organization conveniently forgot to include that many teachers receive local salary supplements. In 2009-10 and 2010-11, teachers in Guilford County Schools received an average local salary supplement of about $4,900 each year, a figure not included in the NCAE briefing.
That said, the misleading charges leveled in the NCAE briefing are secondary to the main point of my article: there is no credible research that supports paying teachers based on longevity and academic credential. The current teacher salary schedule ties the hands of principals and forces schools to pay good and not-so-good teachers the same salary. Such a system also ignores the reality of differences in local markets and economies – a shortcoming which helped to spawn the local salary supplements.
The NCAE briefing never addresses this point.
Teachers — like the students they teach– have different talents and perform at different levels. Fairness dictates that we pay teachers that reflect those differences. The current teacher salary schedule serves – not the interest of teachers or the children they serve – but only the interests of the NCAE.