The average salary for a North Carolina public school teacher has risen 5 percent to nearly $54,000 this year.
New figures released Wednesday by the state Department of Public Instruction estimate the average salary for teachers to be $53,975 — $2,741 more than the previous school year. The new number is 20 percent more than the $44,990 average salary five years ago.
According to DPI, North Carolina now ranks fourth in the Southeast in average teacher compensation, with Georgia being the highest at $56,392.
The new figures come amid a debate about how much North Carolina leaders have done to support teachers. Republican legislative leaders are touting the gains, and Democrats and the N.C. Association of Educators say not enough is being done.
“These numbers are the result of record-breaking investments from Republicans in educators and students,” Pat Ryan, a spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger, said in a statement Wednesday. “Over the last five years, Republicans have provided teachers with five consecutive pay raises, and in three of those years the raises were at or near the top in the entire country.
“Once the facts are laid bare, it’s easy to see that attacks against Republicans over education spending are simply Democrats and their special interest allies playing politics.”
But NCAE president Mark Jewell said the DPI figures are skewed by factors such as the large number of experienced teachers at the high end of the state pay scale and how some school districts give large local salary supplements. The figures cited by DPI include the average salary supplement of $4,580 provided by districts.
“If you talk to most educators, they’re not making $53,900,” Jewell said.
State Superintendent Mark Johnson had teased the new average salary figures at an event last month announcing the creation of “Teach NC,” a public-private partnership that will be launched this spring to help improve the image of the teaching profession.
The National Education Association has not released this year’s annual report on teacher pay, but last school year the national average salary was $60,483. Last school year marked the first time that both DPI and NEA said the state’s average salary was over $50,000.
The recent pay increases helped improve the state’s ranking on average teacher pay to 37th in the nation in last year’s NEA report. The state had fallen to 45th in 2011 after the recession froze pay increases.
“Not only have North Carolina teachers received substantial salary gains this year, data from the National Education Association demonstrates we are also a top-5 state in the nation for rising teacher pay over the long-term of Republican leadership in the state legislature,” Joseph Kyzer, a spokesman for House Speaker Tim Moore, said in a statement.
The debate is already underway about what raises should be provided this year.
Cooper unveiled a budget proposal Wednesday calling for a 9.1 percent average raise for teachers spread out over the next two years. He also wants the state to reinstate extra pay for all teachers who have master’s degrees or other advanced degrees.