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NEA rankings are in: Where North Carolina falls on teacher pay and per-pupil spending

North Carolina’s average teacher pay is estimated to cross the $50,000 mark this year, according to a new report from the National Education Association (NEA). This comes two years after former Governor McCrory announced an average five percent raise for teachers aimed to bring the average salary above $50,000.

Last year’s average teacher salary was $49,970, missing the mark by just $30 and ranking the state 39th in the nation for teacher pay. This year, NEA estimates North Carolina’s average teacher salary is $50,861, moving it up two spots to 37th in the nation. North Carolina’s average teacher salary has increased five percent since 2009, but accounting for inflation, it has decreased nine percent.

Governor Cooper’s Office responded to the rankings in a statement on Monday, saying, “If the legislature would adopt Governor Cooper’s teacher pay proposals, then North Carolina could get to at least the national average a lot faster. We cannot accept this ranking because teachers must have professional pay, and students must have well qualified teachers.”

North Carolina’s average teacher salary still falls short of the estimated national average of $60,483 this year. Terry Stoops, vice president of the John Locke Foundation, argued that North Carolina’s teacher pay is actually higher relative to other states when you adjust for the cost of living in different states. He ranks North Carolina 29th in teacher pay after adjusting for the cost of living.

North Carolina also fell short of the average per-pupil spending in 2017, coming in at $9,329 as compared to the national average of $11,642. NEA estimates North Carolina’s per-pupil spending this year will be $9,528, a 2.1 percent increase from last year that puts North Carolina at 39th in the country.

Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, took aim at the General Assembly in a statement released Monday: “Our students deserve public schools that have the resources they need to be successful and educators who are respected like the professionals they are. Instead of prioritizing corporate boardrooms, our elected leaders should be making critical investments in our classrooms.”

The number of North Carolina graduates grew from 100,947 in 2016 to 102,946 in 2017, an increase of 2 percent. NEA estimates that number will grow to 104,172 in 2018. 

North Carolina remained 10th in the nation for student enrollment in 2017 although it declined from 1,443,770 students in 2016 to 1,439,292 students in 2017. NEA estimates an increase in student enrollment this year, bringing the total to 1,451,446 students in 2018. 

Nationally, both the number of students enrolled in public schools and the number of high school graduates have increased since 2009 but spending on education, specifically per-pupil expenditures and teacher salaries have decreased when accounting for inflation. Student enrollment has increased 1.9 percent and the number of high school graduates has increased 7.7 percent, but per-pupil spending has declined 2.3 percent, and teacher salaries have declined 4 percent since 2009.

Correction: The original post stated North Carolina’s average teacher salary has increased five percent since 2009, but accounting for inflation, it has decreased four percent. It was corrected to nine percent when adjusted for inflation.
Molly Osborne

Molly Osborne is the director of policy for EducationNC and the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.