- Under Democrats, pay plunged when the recession hit
- GOP lawmakers have raised teacher pay, and added teachers
- Total compensation gives a better picture of what teachers earn
In Part I of this two-part series, we hypothesized that if Republicans were waging war against public education, there would be noticeable differences in the areas of budgeting, but the facts undercut that narrative. Now we turn our attention to the second half of this analysis: teacher pay and benefits. Again we seek to test the dominant narrative of the Left: Republicans are committed to destroying public education.
If that is true, differences will manifest themselves with regard to how Democrats and Republicans pay and compensate teachers. Our analysis reviews general teacher pay and compensation data and assesses relative changes within those categories.
|Year||Legis. Control||Avg. NC Teacher Pay||National Avg. Teacher Pay||SE Average Teacher Pay|
Source: Highlights of the North Carolina Public School Budget for various years, NC Department of Public Instruction. Available at: http://www.ncpublicschools.org/fbs/resources/data/
*Estimate based on teacher pay plan and approved by General Assembly. Estimate provided by Office of Sen. President Pro Tempore Phil Berger.
Table I chronicles changes in average teacher pay in North Carolina, national average teacher pay and the average teacher pay in Southeastern states from 2005-06 to 2016-17. A quick review of the data reveals that over the six-year time period when Democrats controlled the General Assembly, average teacher pay in North Carolina increased 6.3 percent. Four years of increases in average teacher pay were followed by two years of declines, where average salaries declined 3.6 percent from their 2008-09 high. In the subsequent six-year period of Republican legislative control (2011-12 to 2016-17), average teacher salaries also declined 3.6 percent during the first three years of Republican legislative control. The three-year decline was followed by three years of increases in average salaries. Over the period 2011-12 to 2016-17, average teacher pay increased 7.4 percent.
As noted in the table above, North Carolina teacher salaries have been consistently below the national average, no matter the time period. The difference between average teacher pay in North Carolina and the national average was less so in the early 2000s, but has slowly increased in recent years.
North Carolina teacher salaries fare better when compared to neighbors in the Southeast. From 2005-06 until 2008-09 –when Democrats controlled the General Assembly – average teacher pay in North Carolina actually exceeded the Southeast average. Since that time, however, North Carolina teacher pay has trailed the Southeast average, although in recent years the gap has been closing.
Chart I (below) maps these changes over time and against the changes in the number of state-funded teachers. Eighty – seven percent of all teachers in North Carolina are teachers paid by the state. One of the most noticeable aspects of the chart is the rapid rise and decline in the number of teachers from 2005-06 to 2010-11, a time when both Houses of the General Assembly were controlled by Democrats.
A second aspect worth noting is the slow decline in teacher salaries from 2008-09 to 2013-14. This was traceable in large part to the aftermath of the Great Recession. Overall, the period was marked by three years of Republican and Democratic control. The last three years under Republican leadership have seen a significant increase in average teacher salary, growing from $44,990 in 2013-14 to an estimated $50,186 in 2016-17.
With regard to the size of the teacher workforce, Democrats presided over the periods of greatest expansion – and the periods of greatest contraction. In recent years, Republicans have slowly expanded the number of state-funded teachers, growing from 78,963 in 2010-11 to 82,345 in 2016, with the latter being a number slightly below the number of teachers in North Carolina in 2005-06.
Source: Highlights of the North Carolina Public School Budget for selected years. Published by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Data for selected years available at: http://www.ncpublicschools.org/fbs/resources/data/
Average Teacher Pay
Two final areas of comparison between Democrats and Republicans that we will examine are teacher pay raises and compensation. Chart II (below) provides average teacher pay raises by year. From 2005-06 to 2010-11, Democrats provided teacher raises in four of the six years they controlled the legislature. Pay raises totaled 21.2 percent over the period, while the combined increases in annual Consumer Price Index increased totaled 14.4 percent. The highest pay raise during the period was 8 percent (2006-07). It should also be noted that in two of the six years Democrats controlled the legislature during that period, teachers received no pay raise.
Turning to the most recent six-year period, teachers received pay increases in four of six budgets developed under Republican control. The largest average pay increase was 7 percent in 2014-15. In the last three years alone, teachers have received a combined 13.8 percent in pay raises. Like their Democratic colleagues, Republican gave teachers no raise in two of the years, 2011-12 and 2013-14. Over the six-year period, pay raises totaled a combined 15 percent. The combined increase of the Consumer Price Index of the time period was 8.5 percent.
So is there a difference in how Republicans and Democrats pay teachers? The average pay increase for Democrats was 3.6 percent. For Republicans it 2.5 percent. Both parties awarded four raises in six years and had two years when no raises were awarded. What might be surprising to most people is that teachers have actually received pay raises in each of the last three years and in four of the last five years.
Source: North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
Oftentimes when teacher pay is discussed, focus is limited to salary. An accurate discussion of teacher pay also includes other compensation such as health insurance and retirement benefits. Chart III (below) tracks changes in the state per employee costs of health insurance and retirement benefits from 2005-06 to 2016-17. As you can see, the value of health and retirement benefits increased dramatically during the period. Under Democrats, the cost of health insurance per employee increased 31.5 percent; the same costs under Republicans increased 10.9 percent. With regard to retirement costs, Democrats presided over a 54.1 percent increase; while the same costs under Republicans increased 34.8 percent.
Neither party seemed to be able to do much about stemming the tide of rising health care and retirement costs. While Republicans have largely been able to limit the rate of increases, the costs still continue to go up. However, consider the increases in recent years, it does little to bend a trend line. Costs in both areas continue to increase; the only issue seems to be the rate of increase. And in recent years, the increases have continued, but at a lesser rate than those seen during 2008-2012.
Source: Highlights of the North Carolina Public School Budget for selected years. Available at: http://www.ncpublicschools.org/fbs/resources/data/
As we said previously, benefits are an important component of teacher pay. How have recent changes impacted total compensation? Chart IV (below) illustrates how the costs North Carolina pays for health insurance, retirement benefits and social security have increased over time. The chart track measures 1) average teacher salary, 2) total compensation and 3) value of health insurance, retirement benefits and Social Security as a percentage of average teacher salary. What is immediately noticeable is the real value of salary and benefits (i.e. health insurance, retirement benefits, Social Security) has been increasing. In 2005-06, salary and benefits for an average teacher totaled $54,025. By 2016-17 that value had increased to over $67,000. Likewise, the percentage of compensation to average salary increased from 24 percent to 34 percent during this period. That number increased dramatically in the middle of the period studied but in recent years has flattened out. While many of the trend lines on Chart IV are similar to those on other graphs (that is, periods of early growth, punctuated by declines due to the Great Recession, followed by slower sustained periods of growth) the main takeaway is that while North Carolina may have struggled over the years in providing competitive teacher salaries, when total compensation is considered, those numbers look much better – especially in recent years.
Source: North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and individual calculations.
Much of the discussion surrounding K-12 education in recent years has centered around the so-called “Republican war on education.” Such charges suggest that over the past six years Republican actions concerning K-12 budgeting, teacher pay and compensation would stand in stark contrast to the policies of their Democratic predecessors. Those differences are not visible.
In recent years, K-12 education budgets have grown, as has per student state support. Republicans have awarded teacher pay raises in the last three years. When benefits are included, teacher salary and compensation for 2016-17 is nearly $68,000 This is not an argument for more resources. Resources – while important – must be considered along with such things as outcomes, academic achievement and parental choice. Rather, these developments underscore the notion that the Republican war on public education is not readily apparent when reviewing Republican policies regarding budgeting, teacher pay and benefits. It’s a notion that lacks any grounding in fact. And we’d do well to treat it accordingly.
Charts III and IV compiled from following data and calculations
|Year||Health Insurance||Retirement Benefits % of Ave. Salary||Ave. Teacher Salary||Value of Teacher Retirmnt. Benefits||Social Security.||Health Ins||Total Value of Benefits||Benefits As % of Ave. Teacher Salary||Total Comp Salary + Benefits|
|A||B||C||D=B x C||E=C x.0765||F||G=A+D+E||H=G / C||I=C + G|
Source: North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and from individual calculations.
For a comprehensive overview of North Carolina education policy dating back to 1985, read the Civitas Institute’s Public Policy Series guide to education.