North Carolina teachers march for better pay in a rally in Raleigh. (Staff photo)
State education leaders on Thursday expressed disappointment that state lawmakers didn’t honor their double-digit teacher pay raise request in the recently approved state budget. In March, the State Board of Education asked lawmakers to include 10% pay raises in the budget for all teachers.
“I cannot help but express some disappointment on behalf of our educators that there was not a better response to that request,” said state board vice chairman Alan Duncan.
Duncan said he hopes lawmakers will reconsider teacher pay raises in the “short session” next year. Higher pay will make the state more competitive amid a nationwide struggle to fill teacher vacancies, he said.
A North Carolina School Superintendents’ Association survey found that the state started the school year with more than 3,500 teaching vacancies, several media outlets recently reported. Vacancies declined 20% over the previous year because districts hired more “residency license teachers.” Those teachers are not licensed and have less experience. They are allowed to teach while taking education courses designed to help pass state licensure exams.
The new state budget provides teachers with an average pay raise of 7% over the next two years. Newer teachers will see the largest increases with raises of more than 10%. The state’s most experienced teachers will only see 3.6% pay raises, which does not keep pace with inflation.
“I am so sympathetic to veteran teachers, and it’s not just veteran teachers, it’s really anyone but especially veteran teachers, who have lost purchasing power because the [pay] increases have not kept up with inflation,” State Superintendent Catherine Truitt told the state board.
Truitt noted that each 1% increase in teacher pay costs the state $60 million. In addition, the rising cost of teacher health care and pension contributions makes it difficult to provide substantial raises, she said.
The National Education Association reported in May that North Carolina ranked 34th in the nation in average teacher pay last school year. The state’s beginning teacher pay ranked 46th in the nation. Lawmakers increased starting pay to $39,000 this school year and $41,000 the next. Starting pay was $37,000 last school year.
State Treasurer Dale Folwell said that there are many teacher pay studies, some with conflicting data. The state must work to ensure everyone is working from the same set of facts when comparing North Carolina’s teacher pay to teacher pay in other states, he said.
Folwell said teachers in Texas and those in several other states, for example, do not pay into the federal Social Security system like teachers in North Carolina.
“They put more money into the pension plans, they put more money into 401k matches, which we don’t do at all …. They pay people more,” Folwell said. “I look forward to the day where we can have all sides and all buildings can have an honest conversation about where we are and were we need to go based on math and not emotion and politics.”
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