According to the Washington Post, teacher salaries, on average, have slipped 1.3 percent since 2000, but the average hides wide state-by-state varieties. In states like Arizona, Indiana and North Carolina, teacher salaries have fallen at least 12 percent.
Some states are experiencing raises in teacher pay, while others are losing huge amounts of financial support. Colorado, for example, which is having a serious teacher shortage, saw a 15 percent decline in average teachers salaries from 1969-2017. According to Money, a magazine published by Time, Inc., 25 years ago, the gap between teachers and other college-educated professionals pay was just 1.8 percent. Now, there’s a 17 percent pay differential. Teacher salaries need to, at a minimum, raise to combat inflation, so why are they being paid even less?
In North Carolina, we spend 12.2 percent less per pupil than we did before the 2008 recession, ranking our state 39th in the nation. And, while the economy has recovered, teacher pay has not. School counselors and social workers in North Carolina are staffed much less than recommended, which leaves our students without the social and emotional support they desperately need.
Based on statistics from the NCPW, North Carolina has lost nearly 7,500 teacher assistants due to state budget cuts, which undermines teachers’ abilities to instruct students and manage their behavior.
As well as teacher assistants, teachers themselves have lost due process rights, longevity pay and pay increases for graduate degrees. Teachers newly hired after Jan. 1, 2021, will not enjoy retiree health benefits. Health insurance premiums have skyrocketed and teachers responsible for insuring their families now pay an average of nearly $10,000 a year, which is kind of difficult when they are so poorly compensated. The N.C. General Assembly implemented a new principal performance pay system, which will result in some school leaders suffering pay reductions of more than $20,000, leading to many principals taking early retirements.
As students, we need to help teachers get the salaries they deserve, and schools get the funding because it will positively affect those around us and us personally.
The North Carolina Education Lottery was established after Gov. Mike Easley signed the North Carolina State Lottery Act and the 2005 Appropriations Act. One hundred percent of the proceeds are meant to go directly toward the state’s education funding, and that is part of what makes it so popular. But, all those funds don’t seem to be helping support schools. Last year, according to the Education Lottery’s website, the North Carolina education lottery took in $634 million. If the Education lottery is making millions, why are teachers asking for more money? Because they don’t get it. Only about 30 percent of the lottery’s revenue actually goes towards supporting schools.
The remaining 30 percent goes to education proceeds, and is broken down as follows: 13.3 percent of the total is used for school construction, 8.6 percent of the total is distributed based on school enrollment, 4.7 percent of the total is distributed to counties with effective property tax rates above North Carolina's average based on school enrollment and 3.3 percent of the total is distributed for college scholarships, to be used with the federal Pell Grant.
The Equity Project is a Manhattan charter school project that pays teachers a salary of $125,000 yearly, with extra bonuses based on performance. However, teachers are expected to teach larger classes and work longer hours. They are required to take four weeks of professional development classes a year and they are regularly reviewed once they are hired. Students’ average test scores showed growths in math, English, and science equal to an additional year and a half of school, compared with district students. Forty-three percent of the charter schools’ students passed the state’s math tests in 2013, and the city average is 26 percent. It’s not clear that this model of schooling would work everywhere, but it’s clear that paying teachers more is a simple solution to the complicated school reform debate.
Teachers are protesting, asking for better funding in schools, better benefits and higher salaries. There needs to be more focus on education, because students are the future of society and teachers that are able to help them deserve better salaries. Influential teachers can change a child’s perspective and impact their choices. If we treat teachers so poorly, they won’t be as motivated to help students attain their full potential. In conclusion, we need better pay and funding in schools.
To help change the system, there are a few different things that we can do. An easy thing to do is write senators. There are many websites that provide sample letters that can be modified to help advocate for better education, such as www.mnmsba.org/Portals/0/PDFs/Advocacy/LetterToSenateMember.pdf which provides a PDF letter that needs the be filled in with your name and district. It’s very easy to do, and pretty effective. Through just a letter, you’re helping support teachers, students and schools and we appreciate it.
Leah Coffey, 15