The National Education Association’s (NEA) Annual Rankings of States and Estimates of School Statistics was released yesterday. North Carolina ranked 30th for average teacher salary in 2018-19, up three spots from 2017-18 when the state was ranked 33rd. The Tar Heel state also had the third highest percentage gain (5.28 percent) in average salary over the period 2017-18 to 2018-19; surpassed by only Washington (31.16 percent) and Oklahoma (13.17 percent).
The R&Es — as NEA’s Rankings and Estimates are often called — have been at the center of teacher pay debates in North Carolina. In recent years teacher organizations frequently pointed to the state’s relatively low ranking to help boost teacher pay. R&Es however have not been without criticism. Civitas has criticized the use of the rankings numerous times (see here and here). For starters, the average teacher pay figure ignores the makeup of the labor force for teachers. Since growing states like North Carolina will be hiring many new teachers, the state is likely to have a larger number of young teachers which will work to lower the average salary of all teachers. Moreover, a second problem is that the R&E fails to account for differences in the cost of living. It costs less to live in Murphy than Manhattan. That matters.
Yesterday, my friend at the John Locke Foundation, Terry Stoops published preliminary figures that showed, when adjusted for cost of living, North Carolina average teacher salary ranked 26th in the nation.
No, R&Es is far from perfect. That said, when you stand back and look at the numbers, it’s difficult to deny the significant improvement North Carolina has made in recent years.
But don’t worry, I am confident NCAE and other groups will think of something to let us know how much we disrespect teachers.