CHARLOTTE (Oct. 4, 2017) – North Carolina has made efforts in recent years to raise teacher pay from a low of 47th in the nation in 2013-14.1
Yet enrollment in the state’s schools of education is still down.
“I’m having fewer and fewer students, even though we have a fantastic program at UNC Charlotte,” Susan Harden, an assistant professor in the Cato College of Education, says in the accompanying video.
“And what my students tell me is that teacher pay is just not adequate. They can go into nursing or engineering or computer science, and the fact of the matter is that there are options.”
Harden asks the panelists at the Higher Education Works Foundation’s ‘Aim Higher, Achieve More’ forum whether the state has done enough to raise teacher pay.
“Is even targeting to be within the top 25 – when my students are graduating and going to Texas and South Carolina to teach – is that even enough to attract students when their options among other careers are so much better?” she asks.
NC House Speaker Tim Moore responds that he has relatives who are teachers, and that legislators have worked hard to raise average pay for NC teachers to $50,000.
“We have really invested very heavily in raising teacher pay for six solid years,” Moore says.
He notes that he hears complaints about new teachers getting larger raises than more experienced teachers. “That’s a fair question. That’s something that we are continuing to invest in,” he says.
Moore notes that North Carolina approved the largest pay increase for teachers of any state last year.
“We are where we are, but we’re working to get those up, and we are improving…. It’s like anything else – it’s not a problem that happened overnight, and you’re not going to fix it overnight. It takes a long-term approach, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Between expenditures on K-12 education, community colleges and universities, Moore says, “We’re spending record amounts in our state’s history, and we’re going to continue to do that.”
As for attracting more students to teaching, UNC President Margaret Spellings notes that the legislature also partially restored the Teaching Fellows program this year, offering forgivable loans for students who agree to teach in high-demand STEM and special education fields.
“That will help make your money go farther,” Spellings says.
“We also, talking about the pipeline, need to provide more affordable options for teacher preparation,” says NC Community College System Acting President Jennifer Haygood.
The community college system is developing a new associate degree in teacher education that is designed for students to transfer to a four-year institution, Haygood says. The program will pilot at NC State University next year.
“We have to have a value proposition for students, and students are not going to go into a lot of debt to have a job that only pays so much,” she says.