Earlier this month Gov. Roy Cooper proposed a 9.1 percent average raise for teachers, divided over two years. Cooper’s budget includes $600 million in pay raises for teachers and administrators.
In his state of the state speech Cooper said when he visits public schools, “I see teachers working second jobs to make ends meet. Kids who missed out on early childhood education and Pre-K trailers and crowded classrooms. If we want our educators to teach well. We need to treat them well.”
Cooper said, “we must do better.”
So how are teachers doing?
Data from the Highlights of the Annual Public School Budget, 2019, helps to answer this question
Source: Highlights of North Carolina Public School Budget, 2019
Average teacher salary is almost $54,000, but still below the national average. If we do a little math, we find teachers have received five consecutive pay increases. Since 2013-14 the average teacher salary has increased 22 percent or about 4.7 percent, per year. I’d challenge anyone to show me a state whose average teacher pay increases over the past five years are better.
Cooper’s budget proposal throws yet more money at teachers and administrators. He says, “we must do better” and wants to bring salaries to the national average. Of course, why the national average is relevant in North Carolina labor markets is never stated. Does anyone live in a place called the national average?
Teachers deserve a fair wage. However, the biggest obstacle to a fair wage is not resources, it’s the teacher salary schedule. A framework that treats all teachers the same and rewards time on job over excellence is limiting. It may be in the interests of NCAE and the union. It’s not in the interest of teachers or students.
The many shortcomings of the teacher salary schedule are outlined here and here. In all fairness, legislators tried to address some of these shortcomings. For example, starting salaries have been raised and it now takes less time for a teacher to earn a $50,000 salary than in it did in the past.
But the teacher’s salary schedule still remains. Yes, we have fewer salary steps, but the same principles apply. And I still ask: Why shouldn’t a school board or administrator be able to pay a talented young teacher more than the salary schedule suggests? Why should effective and not-so-effective teachers be paid the same? Why is teacher salary tied to time-on-the-job over academic performance?
These are questions Gov. Cooper’s pay proposal conveniently ignores. Progressives applaud it because it raises teacher salaries. Equally important, Cooper keeps the discussion focused entirely on inputs – not outcomes; a technique that aids his political cause, but not necessarily good policymaking. Truth is, Cooper’s teacher salary proposal throws more money into a system designed to help teachers unions – not teachers or students. It does nothing to address the fundamental problems behind teacher pay. But that’s par for the course for Cooper; he knows his political constituencies and what they did to help elect him governor.
I only wish he cared as much for all teachers and students.