Teacher salary is a subject that seems to never goes away in North Carolina. One of the reasons why this is so is because of how we talk about it. Our discussions are frequently focused on state and national average salaries, but often fail to include total teacher compensation which includes the cost of benefits such as health insurance, retirement benefits and social security.
Because teacher compensation provides a more comprehensive view of what teachers receive for their services, it’s a better figure to use in this discussion. The problem, however, is data on teacher compensation is often missing from the discussions. A look at the average teacher compensation figures for 2009 and 2019 is illuminating.
|NC Average Teacher Compensation 2009 and 2019|
|Year||Ave. NC Teacher Salary||Health Insurance||Retirement Benefits||Social Security||Total Benefits||Total Comp.||Benefits as a % of Total Comp.|
|Source: Highlights of the North Carolina Public School Budget (for specific years), published by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Available online at: http://www.ncpublicschools.org/fbs/resources/data/#statistical-profile. Figures for health insurance and retirement benefits represent cost per employee. The cost of social security per employee has remained the same, 7.65 percent of salary.|
All the figures in the above table are from Highlights of the NC Public School Budget, for appropriate years and use current dollars. The comparison shows the real impact of rising healthcare and retirement costs on teacher compensation. For example, in 2009, the cost of total benefits (health insurance, retirement benefits and social security) for the average teacher was $11,807. By 2019, that cost had risen to $20,412. Over the same period, total compensation (salary + the cost of benefits) increased from $60,261 in 2009 to $74,387 in 2019. Over the same period, benefits as a percentage of total compensation increased from 19.5 percent (2009) to 27.4 percent (2019). The most dramatic increases over the time has been the cost of teacher retirement. As a percentage of salary, the cost has increased from 8.1 percent (2009) to 18.8 percent (2019).
The discussion over how to pay teachers rages on. It’s true that teachers in North Carolina have received five consecutive annual pay increases. The fact is while North Carolina teachers have received pay increases for five consecutive years, a larger percentage of funding has been going to pay the cost of benefits.
It’s a reality that needs to be injected into the discussion.