NCAE Misses the Mark, Again

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.

This article was posted in Education by Bob Luebke on February 8, 2012 at 5:19 PM.

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Comments on this article

  • 1

    Loren Kent
    Loren Kent Feb 09, 2012 at 13:42

    I agree with you Mr. Luebke. Teachers should be paid differently based on experience, performance, and the hours actually worked, just like most professionals. You say that North Carolina should find a better way to pay teachers, yet the bills proposed that this group supports seem to be in direct contrast to your founding argument.

    The most recent law change regarding teacher’s pay is centered on how often teachers can be paid. The law states that teachers can be paid once a month only for days worked. I understand that the state doesn’t want to pay people for days they haven’t worked, but writing a law that required payment once a month isn’t the best way to solve the problem.

    You pointed out that “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.”
    The steps received for years of experience can be construed as a raise, and teachers are thankful for the small increase yearly when the payscale is not changed.
    In the 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.”

    A change in steps resulted in no increase, so how is a teacher’s salary increasing?

    Teachers were also required to pay a small amount toward health insurance coverage this year in addition to paying higher rates for spouse or family coverage (around 700 a month for family), further decreasing take home pay. Many Americans, not just teachers are experiencing increasing hardship with rising healthcare costs.

    If you are pointing out that a teacher with a bachelor’s degree working for 5 or 6 years is earning just at or above the federal poverty level based on the number of people in the family, you have made an excellent point. A 5 year teacher, paying for ONLY healthcare for the family, federal withholdings, social security, medicare, and state withholdings claiming zero deductions takes home about 1761.00 monthly based on the total salary divided into 10 equal months. This will certainly be different next year when the law changes. Teachers will be paid for the number of days worked in the month instead of it being equally distributed, which could cause great hardship for many when the same bills are due. I hope this teacher from your example is married to someone who isn’t a teacher. Hopefully, he or she can continue to pay bills, so they won’t become a further strain on our struggling economy.

    Speaking of “supplements,” not all counties in the state can afford large supplements, so implying that 4,900 is the average for most counties is preposterous. For example, some counties’ supplements are as low as 262.00 for the year, but most fall in the range of 1000-2000 for the year. Taxes are paid on this money as well. Often these supplements are divided and distributed in each paycheck, some are divided into two payments, one in the middle and one at the beginning or end of the year, and some are paid in a lump sum. These decisions are made by the county. Many teachers use this supplement to buy Christmas gifts for family, school supplies for the classroom and students in need, or to pay off student loans, or medical bills. Teachers are certainly not using these supplements to buy vacation homes or other luxury items. Teachers rely on these supplements just to pay the bills. The supplements or “bonuses” are not comparable to other professionals with degrees and the same years of experience.

    Your closing statement:
    “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 (“[Tax] Exempt purpose is to advance the interests of educators and the promotion and protection of welfare of the association’s members and To advance the interests of the teaching profession”).
    Once again, I agree that teachers have different talents and perform at different levels, and that fairness dictates that teachers are paid to reflect those differences; however, doesn’t that also dictate they are paid a fair living wage based on education, training, time in the profession, expertise, in addition? The current teacher salary schedule serves no one, sir. If the interests of the NCAE is to advance the interests of the teaching profession, and those interests are to be treated like the professionals we are, then the small amount some teachers pay to that organization is clearly not enough, because you haven’t gotten the message.
    The ultimate result of all of this is that North Carolina’s children will continue to be taught by extremely overworked, underpaid, stressed out professionals. Some will continue to push through and do what they love, because ultimately it is the children that matter. This may mean getting a second or third job and more continued sacrifice or the teacher’s family. Some will leave the profession because they just can’t afford it anymore. The children will suffer, the economy will suffer, and North Carolina will ultimately pay the price of a poorly educated populous. Teachers do not expect to be paid at the top of the pay scale, but we do deserve a liveable wage.

  • 2

    Kelly Evans
    Kelly Evans Feb 09, 2012 at 20:30

    The information presented by this organization is so out of touch with the reality of what I know to be true as a veteran teacher – 19 years in the public schools of NC. I hold a Master’s degree and am National Board certified. I share that so you will know I am not one of those “mediocre” educators. I teach because I love helping young adults achieve their full potential. I teach because I change lives. While I always knew I would never get rich in the classroom I never expected to be in a situation where MY OWN children would suffer because of what I do for other people’s children. I will tell you the truth – but it isn’t as pretty as the picture you paint:
    I live in an 1100 square foot town home where my 17 yo son and 15 yo daughter share a 10 X 10 bedroom. Unlike many Americans, I am NOT mired in debt. Because I will not receive a paycheck in the month of August (and have just been informed) I will have to find a way to squirrel away $400 a month so that I can pay the mortgage and buy groceries in August.

    I get to work each day at 6:45 am to start my day and often leave at 5:00 pm. I work nights and weekends to design high quality, inquiry based science lessons; provide meaningful feedback on assignments for my students; and call parents to discuss the needs of their students (as many tell me not to call them during their work day – many even tell me they are “too tired” to help their child at night). No one pays me for these extra hours worked. It is assumed I should just do it for free.

    I spend $300 – $500 each year on classroom supplies because my students can not provide them or my district can not buy them and I want my students to have a competitive education.

    I teach students (and not just 5 or 6) each day with medical,emotional and mental burdens like Autism, ADHD, OCD, ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), Bi-Polar, depression, etc. I have kids tell me their parents or other caregivers beat each other, are drug addicts, are sexually abusing them, neglect them…that they are hungry, have no clothes to wear, etc. Many of my students come to school day after day without paper or writing utensils because it is assumed I will provide them. And I am at a great school…I know because I have taught at the “troubled schools with the troubled kids”.

    I could continue on, but quite frankly I have exhausted and overwhelmed myself re-reading this post. I would be happy to talk to you or anyone else about the lives of real teachers, Better yet, I challenge anyone in your association to come work with me for a month and then make recommendations about education and how to improve it. Of course, I have offered that to many people in many positions – funny, no one has taken me up on the offer. I wonder why? I bet if my job was more glamorous someone would at least take the photo op. Or maybe they already know the truth and just can not handle it. Thank God for those of us that do.

  • 3

    Concerned Feb 09, 2012 at 22:39

    Neither of the above posts, clearly from the heart and clearly from the trenches, will receive even a modicum of truthful response from Civitas. If there’s a response at all, it will be more of the same tact. It’s simply not in their agenda to face ALL of the real facts. They’d rather bend the ones that suit their needs to sell near-truths to their cronies in this legislature. Unfortunately, they’re doing a very good sales job.

    But, when it comes time to vote for or against our elected officials, please take the time to look at the voting records of the those you’re voting on. The information is public and easily accessible. If you agree with what they’ve done, then keep ’em. If you disagree, then send ’em home. That is the one time when we, the people, are guaranteed to be heard.

  • 4

    A Feb 14, 2012 at 6:51

    Thank you for taking the time to write that post! They need to hear and see the truth. Unfortunately, we all know they will not actually put themselves in a place to see it, so we must continue to scream! I am a 3rd generation teacher, in my 2nd year of teaching at a turn-around, high-priority, 100% free/reduced lunch school in a urban area of NC.
    I struggle monthly to pay $400 in student loans, along with rent, oil, electric, insurance and a car payment along with trying to keep food in my families fridge and materials, including clothing and supplementary food in my classroom. They say we are merely teachers. Like we work a drive-thru window providing education. Only a teacher understands the million hats we wear everyday. So ridiculously exhausting, but the power to make one child’s life better, priceless.
    When I leave work at 6 or 7pm nightly, after being there since 7:30am, I try not to focus on the sadness am consumed with, that I don’t know how I’m going to pay my monthly bills, that I don’t know how my boyfriend and I (of 3 years) and his 12 year old son will ever afford becoming an official family, that I don’t know when I will ever be able to responsibly afford to make the decision to become a biological mother myself.
    Being a responsible American, that works hard to provide for their family but sees little gains, is merely depressing. The reason I do it? Because I have 18 little faces (only 2 from 2 parent homes, while 3 are currently homeless, 2 have mothers, their sole caregivers, dying from cancer and many are struggling with learning disabilities, language barriers, and so much more)that yearn to walk into our classroom every morning because they know they will be loved, cared for, inspired and intellectually stimulated for the next 8 hours of their lives. I teach selflessly for them…

  • 5

    Janet Burhoe-Jones
    Janet Burhoe-Jones Feb 16, 2012 at 10:45

    I wish I could find someway to help you all. A former teacher, I am confused by all this pay scale re-do and know that no one wants unhappy, under-paid, or over-worked teachers. I had to take vitamin shots just to get through the year.

    What IS the right way to pay teachers fairly in order to reward the best teachers the most?

  • 6

    Jacob Beach
    Jacob Beach Aug 01, 2012 at 1:20

    Teachers are receiving a very small pay raise across the board this year. The information presented here is incorrect though. Teachers in NC have not received any yearly pay step increases. Last year was my third year of teaching and my pay has been exactly the same for three years. Local salary supplements are optional, several smaller counties don’t give them at all. I am sure it is helpful if you live in a more expensive area, like the Piedmont, to offset housing costs and the like.

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