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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE CLOSURE: UPDATES, RESOURCES, AND CONTEXT

State education board calls for pay raise of at least 10% for all public school teachers

two educators wearing red holding signs
Rusty Jacobs
/
WUNC
Two teachers protest for increased teacher pay at a rally in downtown Raleigh, May 2018.

The North Carolina Board of Education unanimously approved a statement today calling for a raise of “upwards of 10 percent” for all public school teachers, as well as investments in beginning teacher pay, to make North Carolina a "leader" in the Southeast. In the last state budget, some teachers got a 2.5% raise annually for two years, but veteran teachers received less.

Board Member Jill Camnitz said superintendents — especially those in the northeast region of the state that persistently face higher teacher vacancy rates — say the need is urgent.

“I’m hearing that we can't find teachers right now, and we need to be looking at teacher pay now,” Camnitz said.

The board viewed comparisons with teacher pay in neighboring states adjusted for the cost of living. Of ten states in the Southeast, North Carolina ranked seventh for average teacher pay and last for beginning teacher pay.

NCDPI state board of education materials, March 2023
This chart represents vacancies in North Carolina public schools this school year by subject area, based on data collected by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction in its annual State of the Teaching Profession report.

“What I hear from superintendents so often is it's not just the neighboring state, but it's that private employer that's able to offer so much more,” Board Chair Eric Davis added.

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, a Republican, said she believes teacher pay should be based on what professionals with similar degrees and credentials as teachers earn.

“One of the responses to increased teacher pay I hear a lot is, ‘Well, teachers make X percentage more than the average wage in a particular county,” she said. “I think that is such a flawed way of looking at teacher pay.”

She added: “I believe in market pay for teachers, which is a controversial idea. We need to be able to attract more teachers across the board, but specifically more teachers in special education, and math and science at the secondary level."

Truitt also pointed out that even modest raises to teacher pay are costly, because a third of any proposed salary increase would go to support teachers’ retirement and health benefits, rather than their take-home pay. She noted that not all neighboring states offer teacher benefits that are as robust as North Carolina’s, and that is one aspect of teacher compensation.

Across-the-board raises to teacher pay would require support from the North Carolina General Assembly. Republican Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, who also serves on the state board of education, said he would support teacher raises.

“We're seeing huge surpluses in our budget every year. So the money's there,” Robinson said.

Budget projections estimate North Carolina will see a $3 billion surplus in tax revenue this year, which Republican leaders in the House and Senate say may lead to more tax cuts.

State board passes recommendations for teacher licensing and pay pilot

When the topic of teacher pay came up in the board’s discussion earlier this week, Truitt said the state will require multiple solutions to improve teacher retention.

“We need to restructure the way that we compensate teachers so that it is attracting this generation of teachers to the profession,” Truitt said. “That involves creating a pathway to advancement that comes with more responsibility and more pay for greater impact.”

That is the thrust of a teacher licensure and pay proposal known by education policymakers as the North Carolina Pathways to Excellence for Teaching Professionals plan.

The plan would create new entry points to earn a teaching license that would rely on multiple measures of a teacher's effectiveness, not only licensing exams. It would also compensate teachers who take on leadership roles to mentor others, much like the state’s advanced teaching roles pilot program.

When the plan first came before the state board last spring, the North Carolina Association of Educators came out against it. The plan has been criticized by some teachers for the way it would restructure their pay to be based on measures of effectiveness — like student test scores, and evaluations by principals and students — rather than their years of service.

A later committee draft recommended continuing teachers’ annual step raises for experience once they reach a full license level. The Department of Public Instruction has continued to rework the initial plan through working groups and committees over the past year.

Today the state board approved broad recommendations for a pilot program, rather than detailed statewide changes to how teachers are licensed and paid. The recommendations are for a voluntary pilot project at 5-to-15 school districts to try out a new licensing and pay model.

The recommendations will go to the General Assembly for consideration to draft a bill to support the pilot. The state board is recommending a full planning year before implementing a pilot in volunteer school districts, during which time the board and committees would hash out more details.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email: lschlemmer@wunc.org