What’s missing from the teacher pay discussion
- Focusing just on salary figures paints an incomplete picture
- Pay boosts for academic credentials and certifications are significant and important
- The value of benefits can exceed $20K, depending on experience and school district
Teacher pay is a never-ending discussion in North Carolina.
At last count over 38 school districts in North Carolina decided to close school on May 16th to allow teachers to come to Raleigh to lobby legislators for more funding for education and better teacher pay.
How much money does the average North Carolina teacher earn? The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI) says, in 2017-18, teachers make — on average –$51,214.[i]
The figure, however, doesn’t tell the entire story.
The NC DPI figure include the average base salary and the average value of local supplement, along with other smaller supplements. Absent from most discussions is the value of health and life insurance, retirement benefits, social security, pay differentials for additional education (e.g. master’s degree -about a 10 percent salary increase) or certification (e.g. teachers with NBPTS certification receive a 12 percent salary increase*). Since both differentials and benefits have a dollar value (benefits must be purchased), they are legitimate components of what teacher’s “earn” for their work. Thus, a better term for describing the dollar value of what teachers receive in return for their labor is not teacher pay, but teacher compensation.
The high percentage of teachers from Durham, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Charlotte Mecklenburg and Wake County Public Schools requesting personal leave to attend the May 16th rally made those districts some of the first to close district schools to allow teachers to lobby for more funding for education and better teacher pay.
That said, it’s fair to assume teachers from Durham, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake County probably hold some of the strongest views about the need to raise teacher pay. So, let’s look at teacher pay and total teacher compensation in those districts.
The Fiscal Research Division of the NC General Assembly developed figures for the chart in the accompanying window. Beginning teachers in Durham Public Schools have a starting salary – including local supplement ($4,375) – of $39,375. However, when the value of benefits ($15,626) are added total compensation for beginning teachers in Durham increases to $55,001. If teachers have a master’s degree, total compensation increases to $59,914. Compensation for mid-career teachers, those with fifteen years of experience, with a bachelor’s degree starts at $71, 090. If you have a master’s degree, total compensation increases to $77,61, or certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) will boost your compensation to $78,916. If you hold both masters and NBPTS certification, your salary will be boosted to $85,438. Finally, compensation for experienced teachers (30+ years) is even higher. Base salary ($51,300) plus the local supplement ($9,491) provides a base salary of $60,791. Adding benefits ($20,933), means a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 30+ years of experience has a total compensation package valued at $81,723. A master’s degree boosts compensation to $89,309, or NBPTS certification increases compensation to $90,826. Add both masters and NBPTS certification total compensation rises to $98,411.
You get the picture. Benefits and pay differentials for academic credentials or certification adds significantly to teacher compensation. Indeed, experienced teachers in Wake County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro with both a master’s degree and NBPTS certification can have total pay and compensation packages in excess of $100,000.
Since the amount of local supplement, benefits and pay differentials increases with years of experience the impact on salary and total compensation is significant. Beginning teachers in Wake County receive a base salary of $35,000. Adding the local supplement of $6,038 brings the starting salary to $41,038. However, teachers receive $16,038 in benefits. Hence, compensation for a beginning teacher in Wake County is $57,076. Longevity and pay differentials for academic credentials and certifications will raise total compensation even further.
Are teachers paid and compensated fairly?
NCAE and many teachers say no and are leaving schools to demonstrate for higher salaries and more education funding. Of course, teachers have every right to demonstrate for more pay and funding. But let’s also remember, the issue of teacher pay must be expanded to include teacher compensation. Moreover, teachers have received pay raises five of the last six years and every year since 2014-15.
Yes, teachers have the right to demonstrate, but ask yourself:
Is closing school for a teacher pay rally good for students who must miss class and another day of instruction?
Is closing school for a teacher pay rally good for students especially when they’re repeatedly told by teachers not to miss days leading up to the End-of-Grade exams?
Is closing school for a teacher pay rally good for bus drivers or cafeteria workers who will lose a day’s pay?
Is closing school for a teacher pay rally good for parents, many of whom will now have to miss work, take a vacation day or make other childcare arrangements?
The North Carolina Association of Educators is the professional association for teachers in the state, and the organization that is planning the May 16th teacher rally. The organization constantly tells us how they are working for teachers and students. If so, why couldn’t teachers plan a rally later in the day or when school ended in June? Legislators would still be in session and it would mean school wouldn’t have to be cancelled. What’s also interesting is that to my knowledge none of the districts that plan on closing schools on May 16th is planning on making up the day. It’s just another lost day of instruction.
But back to teacher pay and compensation. NCAE and other advocates for higher teacher salaries have ignored the value of benefits when discussing teacher pay. To evaluate claims of teacher, pay being “fair” requires the complete picture. Base salaries are only one aspect of teacher pay. In the case of the districts reviewed here, benefits and pay differentials add significantly to the pay for beginning teachers. Beginning teachers in Wake County have a benefit package of more than $16,000. For experienced teachers in Charlotte Mecklenburg, benefits and pay differentials are the difference between a salary of $80,795 for an experienced teacher with only a bachelor’s degree and a salary of $98,482; the salary of an experienced teacher with a master’s degree and NBPTS certification.
Teacher pay is an important topic. It’s even more important to know how we should talk about the term and what should be included in the discussion. An honest discussion demands a focus not on teacher salary, but teacher compensation.
*NBPTS stands for National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. For addditional information visit http://www.nbpts.org/
[i] Highlights of the North Carolina Public School Budget, p. 18, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, February 2018. Available online at: http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/fbs/resources/data/highlights/2018highlights.pdf