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North Carolina’s new principal pay schedule, explained by BEST NC

This year, North Carolina made the largest investment in state history in principal salaries through an updated salary schedule and bonus opportunities. The impetus was an average principal salary ranking at the bottom of the Southeast and among the lowest in the nation; and increasing recognition that North Carolina’s way of paying principals was outdated and convoluted. Our old statewide salary schedule had over 1,500 steps for 2,500 positions, no incentive for principals to serve in struggling schools, and school-to-school turnover among the top in the nation.

The new principal salary schedule provides the average North Carolina principal a 10 percent raise, built on a student-focused, nation-leading foundation. Because it is so different from the way principals have historically been paid, it also raises important questions about design and implementation. The attached FAQ document addresses the most common of these.

BEST NC is committed to working with state leaders to build on the state’s new plan and correct unintended consequences. We have consistently advocated that no principal should see a drop in pay as a result of this plan. Since this summer, we have worked in consultation with state associations and educator groups on technical corrections to ensure that no principal sees a loss in pay this year, and to create greater stability for all principals by extending the provision into future years. Going forward, we are also committed to refining the plan to increase incentives for great leaders to serve in struggling schools; and to continuing to increase North Carolina’s investment in school leaders overall.

These corrections and improvements are critical. It is unfortunate, though, that they overshadow such a significant investment and important step forward to pay North Carolina’s principals as the executives they are. Knowing that great educators are critical to student success, BEST NC celebrates North Carolina’s investment in school leaders and will continue to champion and refine policies to better support them, with a focus on equity and success for every North Carolina student.

Brenda Berg

Brenda Berg is the president & CEO of BEST NC (Business for Educational Success and Transformation in NC). She has over thirty years of experience as a business owner and public policy professional, including education policy research and in the education office of the U.S. Senate Labor & Human Resources Committee (now HELP). Her two children attended North Carolina public schools.