By John Peters
February 22, 2014
Knee-jerk reactions are seldom effective, and Gov. Pat McCrory’s recent plan for making teacher pay more competitive is no exception.
It looks like he, or one of his staffers, decided on the spur of the moment to throw teachers a bone, with no thought to the larger implications of what they are doing.
McCrory’s plan is to raise the pay for starting teachers in North Carolina, who now get an average of $30,800 their first year on the job. That salary figure puts the state far down in rankings when compared with other states around the nation. His idea is to give starting teachers a bump of $2,200 in the coming budget year and another $2,000 raise the following year, putting the starting teacher pay at $35,000.
McCrory overlooked two important factors in putting together this idea.
First, now more experienced teachers, or at least the North Carolina Teachers Association, are complaining that some teachers with several years in the classroom won’t be making any more than first-year teachers (and yes, we know the group calls itself the North Carolina Education Association, but the group represents teacher interest, not education interest).
Second, we get the idea McCrory is making this move simply because he is tired of the teacher association complaining about teacher pay rates and he wants them to be quiet and go away. In so doing, he looks more like his predecessor, Gov. Bev Perdue, who routinely pandered to the association, calling for pay raises with little regard to the budget realities facing many North Carolina residents — the people whose taxes will largely pay for any teacher pay hikes.
Please do not misunderstand us. We think teachers do an important job, and it would great if the state could afford to pay them more, to put the average pay for North Carolina teachers near the top of the nationwide listings.
The reality, however, is that in many rural areas like Surry County, teachers are already making more than a goodly number of their neighbors, the people who will be asked to fork over more tax dollars to fuel the pay raises.
And state rankings are misleading, to say the least. Does anyone really believe a starting teacher living in New York and making the state’s typical beginning salary of $44,000, or one working in California making $41,000, is financially better off than a North Carolina teacher making $31,000? Yet the teacher association uses such figures to imply North Carolina teachers are being left in the dust by other states when it comes to pay.
None of those three examples are getting rich, or anything close to it, to be sure, and we would like to think teachers could be paid more. Here in North Carolina, though, it’s important to realize there’s more to the story than a plan to add some money to a few thousand paychecks — and we hope McCrory, and teachers, keep this in mind as the debate over teacher salaries heats up.