Teacher Pay in North Carolina

Yesterday I wrote about teachers leaving North Carolina.  Even if you’re not from here, the factors affecting North Carolina probably affect your state as well.  Of course, this might have no significance, and you might want to skip this altogether.

Almost 15% of teachers in North Carolina in 2013 – 2014 left their position by the following school year.

John Hood of the John Lock Foundation and Carolina Journal says the figure is misstated.  He points out that North Carolina is a net importer of teachers, since we hire people from other states to replace the people who leave the North Carolina public school classroom.

This ignores two basic facts: Our teaching preparation programs in North Carolina can’t met the demand for qualified teachers, so we will probably always be a net importer of teachers.  Secondly, we are not importing highly experienced teachers as much as we import new teachers.  Sixteen years ago, that was me.  In New York State there were 400 applicants for every teaching job. My first NC school district interviewed me at an airport in Syracuse, and practically offered me a job on the spot.

When you lose teachers with experience, and gain teachers with none, then quality will suffer.  When August rolls around, and school districts are scrambling to fill classrooms, anyone with a license can get a job.

Why are teachers leaving the profession or leaving the North Carolina public school system?

Let’s consider pay.

Teachers draw pay from two sources: State base pay and local supplement. Poorer districts add 4% onto the state pay scale.  More affluent districts can afford up to 15% more pay.  I know of one district paying experienced teacher 25% above the state scale.

The Republican led General Assembly reconfigured the teacher pay scale last year.  Some folks got good raises.  Early career teachers especially saw a boost.  Something else happened also.  Take a look at the pay scale for teachers with a bachelor’s degree.  The left hand column is years of teaching.  In your first year you have zero years of service:

nc teacher salary

The beginning teacher salary has never been so good in North Carolina.  When you have 5 years of experience, you get a raise.  That’s your 6th year of teaching. Then things are steady for 5 more years, until you have 10 years of experience.  That’s your 11th year of teaching.

The same story follows all the way down the table.   Five years between raises gives a teacher plenty of time to figure out something else to do. It also gives teachers plenty of time to find other places to teach. You can’t see the bottom part of the document, but pay tops off in year 25, and never increases according to this scale.

Wallethub just ranked all 50 states plus the District of Columbia for teaching pay:


Yeah!  We beat West Virginia!

One other factor.  Those raises are contingent of a future General Assembly (legislature) following through.  During the Great Recession, there were no raises.  I understand why, but this pay scale has been put on hold, modified and frozen before.  Teachers know this.

The Wake County School District (including Raleigh) just approved a plan to spend tens of millions of dollars to approve local pay raises for all school personnel.  There plan is to meet the U.S. average.

I’m a teacher.  It’s what I do, and what I’ll do until retirement.  I don’t complain about my pay at all.

Based upon a lot of factors, I’ve figured that this is better than digging a ditch, and more rewarding.  But if North Carolina wants to stem the tide of teachers leaving the state, the pay scale needs to be considered.

Next time: Other factors

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7 Responses to Teacher Pay in North Carolina

  1. Gus Bailey says:

    Will “Other Factors” include pension?


    • Will West says:

      Thanks for the column. The new North Carolina teacher pay scale you posted “included” any state longevity that the experienced teachers were already receiving. Moving forward, they would no longer receive a state longevity check. So for many NC veterans, that “pay raise” was very minor. On top of the loss of state longevity, Cumberland County quietly, with no notice to the local veterans, also dropped their 1% local longevity incentive. Since Oct 1, 2015 (when most CCS veterans discovered there was no local longevity paid) the teachers have still not been told who made the decision nor why they weren’t warned they were all given a PAY CUT. BTW, all principals and other support employees will continue to receive their local longevity… makes watching Wake County Schools moving in the opposite (positive) direction as CCS very disheartening.


      • Thanks for bringing that up. The raw numbers on the scale are dollars paid by the state. Longevity was a once a year bonus to experienced teachers, and that was “rolled into” the pay scale for this year. I did NOT hear about Cumberland County changing their local longevity — but I actually didn’t know they had that.

        Highly experienced teachers earn about the same this year as last, even though the Gen. Assembly can say teachers got an average of a 9% raise. That all went to boost the beginning teacher salaries since we have a recruitment problem.


  2. Actually, the pension situation is pretty good, but you really have to stay 25-30 years. The state takes 6 percent off the paycheck and invests. So far their reputation is pretty good for solvency.

    One other “benefit” is that the state does not require Masters degrees for teachers, as some others do. In NY it is required within 5 yrs of getting a job, or you’re out.


    • Gus Bailey says:

      I didn’t want it to come across as negative, but NC has one of the few remaining solvent guaranteed benefit plans available. Oddly enough I think AK may be one of the others, filthy oil money 😉 .


  3. Pingback: Why Do North Carolina Teachers Move? Unequal Pay and General (Assembly) Uncertainty | Dave Alexander & Company — Ukuleledave and David Edgren

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