Three of North Carolina's largest public school districts are near the bottom for lifetime teacher salary earnings, according to a new national report.
The study by the National Council on Teacher Quality looks at 2013-2014 teacher salary schedules from more than 100 public school districts across the country, including Guilford, Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake Counties. Nancy Waymack with the organization says the national average maximum teacher salary is $75,000 a year.
“We adjusted all of our numbers for cost of living. In North Carolina, a teacher in Wake County schools just makes the average maximum high salary after 30 years, but Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Guilford County Schools do not,” says Waymack.
The report is called “Smart Money: What teachers make, how long it takes and what it buys them”. It also looks at the different pay scales for teachers, like performance pay, raises for experience in the classroom and when a teacher earns educational credits.
Elizabeth Foster is the President of the Guilford County Association of Educators. She says the findings raise some major concerns.
“Many teachers in the state won't make it to the national maximum high salary level during their career in North Carolina. We don't have cost of living increases. We don't have step increases, or small increments between years and we no longer have advanced degrees in our pay. The only way to increase your pay is to leave the classroom,” says Foster.
Teachers' salaries have been essentially frozen since 2008. But state lawmakers are revamping the state pay schedule. In August 2014, Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law a deal that gives teachers an average raise of 7 percent. It also condensed the state's 37-step schedule for paying teachers into just six steps, with pay boosts for teachers coming every five years, rather than annually.
Foster says as teachers move to the new pay scale, the amount of their raises will vary depending on how much they were previously earning.
"If you look at how we are ranked beside doctors and lawyers and the type of licensure requirements and education that we must have, we definitely are not considered professional," says Foster. " It certainly does not bode well for people to stay in the profession.”
Overall, Guilford County ranks 96 out of 125 school districts on the list. Pittsburgh, Columbus, Atlanta and the District of Columbia were among the school districts that were ranked the highest for lifetime teacher salary earnings.
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