Politics & Government

NC jumps to 29th in US in teacher pay. NCAE says that still lags behind US average.

North Carolina has jumped several spots to an estimated ranking of 29th in the nation in average teacher pay, according to a new report released Tuesday by the National Education Association.

The new NEA salary report estimates that North Carolina’s average teacher pay is $53,975, up from $51,231 last school year. The NEA projects that North Carolina jumped five spots from its final 2017-18 ranking of 34th in the nation.

The new NEA rankings continue a trend where state pay raises over the past several years have sharply increased both North Carolina’s average salary and national ranking. North Carolina had fallen to 47th in the rankings in 2013 after the recession.

“Raising North Carolina’s average teacher pay to a projected 29th in the nation is an impressive accomplishment for Republican lawmakers considering they inherited a ranking of 47th from Democrats and overcame their opposition to pass all five consecutive salary raises and provide dramatically higher paychecks for our state’s educators,” Joseph Kyzer, a spokesman for House Speaker Tim Moore, said in a statement.

The new figures project North Carolina to have risen from fourth-highest in the Southeast last year to the No. 2 spot this year. The NEA also put the state about $7,800 behind the new projected national average teacher salary of $61,782.

“The facts don’t lie: Republican leadership has been great for teachers,” Senate leader Phil Berger said in a statement. “North Carolina Republicans have increased teacher pay for five consecutive years, and in the last two years we increased salaries by 9.9 percent.”

State Superintendent Mark Johnson, a Republican, said North Carolina needs to maintain the momentum on teacher pay.

“North Carolina’s meteoric rise in just five years is a major accomplishment and shows our commitment to teachers and students,” Johnson said in a statement. “We must continue to be aggressive on teacher pay and also on treating teachers as professionals in other ways — providing advanced teacher roles for professional growth, better pay for assistant principals and principals, and providing 21st Century tools and support for educators and students.”

But Mark Jewell, president of the N.C. Association of Educators, argued that the gains haven’t been fairly distributed. The group, which is the state affiliate for NEA, also focused on how the state is lagging behind the nation and the Southeast in average teacher pay.

“While we have seen salary increases, they have been modest and they have not been fairly done, especially for our experienced educators, who have gotten little,” Jewell said in an interview Tuesday.

Jewell also said that, when the figures adjusted for inflation, teachers are making less money than they earned before the recession.

Jewell said the plan from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is better. Cooper wants to provide raises for all teachers, including a 9.1 percent average raise spread out over the next two years.

Jewell also questioned how many teachers make the average salary of $53,975. He pointed to how the state’s salary scale tops out at $52,000.

The average, Jewell said, reflects factors such as how some teachers got state bonuses, extra pay for master’s degrees and work in counties with large local salary supplements.

“Most teachers are not making the average,” Jewell said. “You’ll want to look at the median. Just look at the salary schedule. The average is being inflated by all these other factors.”

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer