On Wednesday, we discussed teacher tenure in the second part of our budget briefing series. Today, we’re focusing on educator compensation – and particularly, on the legislature’s compensation task force, created in the 2013 budget.
It’s a crucial time to talk about teacher pay in NC. But this study committee hasn’t gotten much press, so far. Why? My guess is because the pay problem on most people’s minds these days – and mine, as well – is the question of base salaries for teachers in North Carolina, and the budget’s failure to make significant additional investments in public school teachers.
Salaries for teachers across the state have been essentially stagnant for the past 8 years, and rank North Carolina 46th in the nation in teacher pay. It can take a North Carolina teacher 15 years to make $40,000, depending on the district—no matter how great she is at helping her students succeed. This is not a professional wage, and our current teachers and new teacher candidates know it.
But the solution to this problem isn’t just more money laid on top of our current salary schedule, which research has shown time and again doesn’t direct public dollars to the things that matter most. Scores of studies from across the country suggest that experience and degrees (the basis of teachers’ salaries in North Carolina) don’t actually have much to do with effectiveness.
Instead, what we need is a serious increase in pay that invests in factors proven to impact student success. The current budget tasks a study committee to explore replacing North Carolina’s “step and lane” structure with a pay system that directly rewards teachers and administrators for their contributions to schools’ success.
When these types of systems are well designed, they not only reward excellence—but research suggests they can also increase retention among top performers and even entice higher-quality applicants into the profession—exactly what we need in North Carolina.
With this compensation task force and the findings it presents in 2014, we have the opportunity to help state and local education leaders design updated compensation systems that provide a professional wage while investing in recruiting, retaining, and rewarding excellent teachers in every school across the state.
Over the next several months, CarolinaCAN will be paying close attention to the task force’s work, shining a light on its progress, and elevating the voice of great teachers across the state to make sure the committee’s recommendations do right by educators across North Carolina. It will be one of our very most important tasks to make sure that the state invests in the one thing we know matters most to student success.
If you, too, are concerned about teacher salaries in North Carolina, join us.