The real story behind NC teacher pay increases

·3 min read

Sen. Kathy Harrington’s recent words about teacher pay (“NC Republicans have provided meaningful teacher raises,“ June 22) are not as truthful as she claims. Her version of events deliberately mistakes appearance with reality.

In her op-ed, she states, “Since Republicans took control of the legislature, North Carolina’s average teacher pay has increased from 47th in the country to 29th.” The state senator bases her argument on “average” teacher pay in North Carolina, a figure that is one of the most grossly misinterpreted statistics in this state. The operative word here is “average.” What Harrington purposefully fails to tell you is that most of the raises since 2014 have occurred at the very low rungs of the salary schedule. You can raise the salary of first-year teachers by a few thousand dollars and it would give them an average raise of perhaps 10 to 15%. You would only have to give veteran teachers a very small raise to have the overall “average” look good.

However, “average” does not mean “actual.”

The last 10 years have seen tremendous changes to North Carolina teacher pay. For new teachers entering the profession here, there is no longer a graduate degree pay bump, no more longevity pay, and an altered scale that only makes it possible for a teacher to top out on the present salary schedule with around $52,000 per year. That number increases to $58,000 for the 20-25 percent of teachers who have national board certification.

So how can it be that the average pay in North Carolina is over $54,000 when most will never make that much as a new teacher in his/her entire career?

Easy. Harrington and her cohorts are counting all of the veteran teachers’ current salaries in that figure. The very people whose salaries simply disgusted the former governor and the General Assembly to the point that they had to take measures to “lower” them are actually being used to tout this wonderful “average.”

Furthermore, this average is counting on local supplements to teacher pay. Local school districts have to raise the money to fund those, and not all localities provide the same supplements. Some can’t provide a supplement at all. Harrington never mentions that. Nor did she mention that the “highest pay raise in the country in 2014” for N.C. teachers was financed-in-part by the elimination of longevity pay for veteran teachers. Nor does she mention that the current salary schedule she appears to brag about cannot begin to sustain an average pay that is the “second-highest in the southeast.”

Remember the word “average” is a very easy word to manipulate. As veteran teachers with their higher salaries begin to retire, there will then be a new average. It can’t possibly be over 54K then if current trends keep going.

Harrington should know this. She’s a five-term senator and one of the Senate’s budget writers.

Since Harrington has been in office, her party has helped remove due process rights for new teachers, created a greater reliance on standardized tests, eliminated class-size caps, instituted a punitive school grading system, and fostered less-regulated charter school growth and vouchers. North Carolina has also seen a drop in teacher candidates of more than 30% during her tenure.

That June 22nd op-ed ended with the following statement: “Politically-minded operators will keep spinning half-truths to convince you of a reality that simply doesn’t exist.”

It appears Sen. Harrington is the one trying to spin a good story.

Egan is a teacher in the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School System.