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NEA has good and bad news for North Carolina

The new National Education Association rankings of the states (including Washington, D.C.) are in, and North Carolina has shown some minor improvement in average teacher pay.

That’s the big news that everybody is reporting. The state moved up from 42nd in the 2014-15 school year to 41 in the 2015-16 school year. To accomplish that, the state’s average salary for teachers went up from $47,819 to $47,985. The latter salary is an estimate.

While that may seem a minor improvement, when you go back to 2013-14, the increase is a little more impressive. Back then, the average teacher salary was $44,990, placing North Carolina at 47th in the nation for teacher pay.

The NEA’s estimate for 2015-16 puts North Carolina $2,015 dollars away from the $50,000 average teacher salary that Governor Pat McCrory has been touting as his goal to beat in the latest legislative session. The full House Appropriations committee is expected to roll out its plans for teacher pay increases today.

Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation did his own analysis of the data, pointing out that the NEA statistics don’t take into account the respective costs of living in different states. When adjusting for cost of living — which is lower in North Carolina than many other places – he ranks the state at 33rd in the nation for average teacher salary.

However Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, decried North Carolina’s financial investment in teachers and students.

“Being in the bottom 10 in the nation on investing in our public school students and educators is unacceptable. We have dangerously high teacher turnover rates and dangerously low enrollment in teacher training programs,” he said in a press release. “Instead of using a surplus budget for more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, we should be investing in our public school students, educators, and schools.”

Other notable statistics from the NEA report include the fact that North Carolina is one of 25 states that saw a decline in average teacher salaries – adjusted for inflation – from 2004-05 to 2014-15. Salaries went down 10.2 percent over those years.

However, North Carolina also had the largest one-year increase in teacher salaries from 2013-14 to 2014-15: 6.3 percent.

For 2014-15, North Carolina went from 47th to 43rd in the nation for expenditures on public school students enrolled as of the fall. In 2013-14, it spent $8,632 per student, and in 2014-15, $8,917. The NEA estimates the state will drop to 44th as total expenditures per student fall to $8,898 in 2015-16.

According to the NEA’s report, North Carolina had the 10th highest number of students enrolled in its school systems in fall 2014 – 1,446,230 students.

North Carolina was 11th for public high school graduates in 2014-15: 98,846

When you look at the growth in number of high school graduates from 2004-05 to 2014-15, North Carolina had the 6th most positive percentage change: 32.3 percent.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.