The state House Select Committee on Education Reform met Monday afternoon to discuss teacher compensation in North Carolina.

Experts say low starting pay leads to higher turnover rates for teachers early on in their careers. 

The committee heard a report from Brenda Berg, the president and CEO of BEST NC, a nonprofit coalition of business leaders looking to improve the state’s education system. 

Berg explained that one of the major challenges in the state is that it takes too long for teachers to reach a living wage. 

According to the MIT living wage calculator, for a family of four in North Carolina, each parent needs to be making roughly $53,000. The state salary schedule for teachers doesn’t hit that mark until after a decade, which Berg says doesn’t work for people who need to support their families. 

“This is when you have childcare, right? This is when you have greater expenses, but you have to hold on for 10, 15, 20 years in your career to be able to actually afford the childcare that you need five years into your career,” Berg said. 

As a result, she says turnover rates for educators are dramatically higher in the first few years of their teaching. 

Another issue Berg pointed out is that the state’s highest-poverty schools have the greatest percentage of beginning teachers. 

“There's really no other industry where we wouldn't pay you to be where you're needed most," Berg said. "We wouldn't pay you for the harder job. And we don't do that in our current model.”

She encouraged increasing starting pay so everyone has a living wage base to build on and providing additional funding for positions and schools that are hard to staff. 

The committee will meet again January 29. 

Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.

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