Education

How does North Carolina rank on a list of best and worst states for teachers?

Durham elementary school students, teachers and parents hold an art lesson and protest inside Sen. Chad Barefoot’s office in the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh on May 3, 2017 to ask state lawmakers to increase education funding.
Durham elementary school students, teachers and parents hold an art lesson and protest inside Sen. Chad Barefoot’s office in the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh on May 3, 2017 to ask state lawmakers to increase education funding. tlong@newsobserver.com

North Carolina is one of the worst states in the U.S. to be a teacher, according to a new national study released Monday.

North Carolina was 45th on WalletHub’s ranking of 2017 Best and Worst States for Teachers, finishing as the seventh-worst state on a list that included all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The personal finance website developed its rankings based on 21 metrics, ranging from teachers’ income growth potential to pupil-teacher ratio to teacher safety.

The new ranking comes as state lawmakers and public school supporters argue over whether North Carolina is doing enough to support public education. State lawmakers have raised teacher salaries in recent years, including an average 3.3 percent raise this year, while critics say more needs to be done to raise the amount spent per student.

“The General Assembly is making a clear decision to invest in corporate tax breaks rather than in public education, which is having an impact on our ability to recruit high-quality teachers in our profession,’ said Mark Jewell, president of the N.C. Association of Educators.

But Terry Stoops, vice president for research for the John Locke Foundation, said the study is just an attempt by WalletHub to get more clicks on its website. He questioned the methodology used by WalletHub for the many different rankings it produces.

“This isn’t truly about finding out best and worst places for teachers,” Stoops said. “This is about driving people to WalletHub’s website.”

The top five states, according to WalletHub, are New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

The six states that ranked lower than North Carolina were Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, Hawaii and Arizona.

WalletHub said North Carolina received its ranking based on these factors:

▪ Average starting salary for teachers (adjusted for cost of living) – 36th

▪ Average annual salary for teachers (adjusted for cost of living) – 34th

▪ Quality of school system – 13th

▪ Pupil-teacher ratio – 34th

▪ Public-school spending per student – 43rd

▪ Teachers’ income growth potential – 38th

▪ Ten-year change in teacher salaries – 46th

▪ Teacher safety – 43rd

Stoops said that if the rankings were consistent then North Carolina would have finished much higher based on the mark it got for the quality of schools.

But Jewell said North Carolina’s low overall ranking reflects changes made in recent years such as not offering extra pay to teachers who get advanced degrees, not offering tenure and not including future teachers in the state health plan when they retire.

“We have to go to the General Assembly and look at their lack of commitment to the public schools,” he said.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

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