NEA’s Rankings & Estimates for 2016 and 2017 was released earlier today. According to the document, North Carolina’s average teacher salary for 2017 was $49,837, good for 35th place. In addition, according to the NEA data, North Carolina ranks 43rd in per pupil spending.
The teacher pay ranking represents an improvement from previous years. when – depending on the source – North Carolina ranked anywhere from the low to the high forties.
North Carolina garnered the top spot for the highest average teacher salary increase and improved its ranking to fifth among SE states on average teacher salaries.
That’s good news. It shows that recently enacted pay plans by the Republican-controlled NC legislature are having an impact.
To their credit, NEA has acknowledged some of these problems (see State Notes for Rankings and Estimates, page 144) and even cautioned against state comparisons — a caution NEA of course readily ignored.
As many of you may remember, data from the NEA Rankings and Estimates data drove much of the recent debate over teacher pay in North Carolina. But the data has problems. States have different budget cycles and growing states – like North Carolina – likely hire more teachers, most of which happen to be younger, which drives down the average teacher salary. Moreover, one of the most significant issues is cost of living. It’s not factored in anywhere in the NEA data. Teachers in Boston may be paid $85,000 and teachers in Biloxi $45,000, but the cost living is significantly higher in Boston. My friend Dr. Terry Stoops at the John Locke Foundation correctly points out that when adjusted for cost of living NC teacher salaries rank 31st in the nation. We’d do well to insert this number into the public discussion on teacher pay rankings.
It’s good to see North Carolina is moving in the right direction. It’s even better when we acknowledge shortcomings, use better methods — and get better results.