RALEIGH – With the opening today of the NC General Assembly’s 2018 session, the focus will be on thousands of teachers from across the state rallying for better pay, supplies and working conditions – in short, for respect for public education.1
But more important will be the budget state legislators leave behind the day they adjourn in about six weeks. As some say, when you show me your budget, you show me your priorities.
Legislators have made considerable advances with teacher pay in North Carolina, raising it from a national rank of 47th four years ago to 37th today.2 Republican legislative leaders point out that NC teachers will receive a fifth consecutive raise this year, for an average raise of $8,600 – or 19% – since 2013.3
But it’s still 37th this year – and 6th in the Southeast, $5,468 behind region leader Georgia.4
The second year of the two-year budget legislators adopted last year already authorizes a raise of more than 6% for teachers in 2018-19, for a two-year increase of 9.6%5 – and, we hope, a higher ranking next year compared with the nation and other Southeastern states.
We hope legislators will build on that.
Last week Gov. Roy Cooper proposed to bump raises for teachers to 8%, with no teacher receiving a raise of less than 5%. Raises would be primarily focused on veteran teachers with at least 25 years’ experience. Cooper maintains the raises would keep North Carolina on track to reach the national average in four years.6
We care about compensation for K-12 teachers because the University of North Carolina System supplies 44% of the state’s beginning teachers,7 and because better teachers mean better-prepared college students.
But we hope legislators don’t stop there.
They also need to ensure stable funding for the state’s 17 public university campuses and its 58 community colleges – as well as the faculty who teach our college students.
The last time the UNC System compared faculty salaries, it found average salaries at 11 of the 16 universities were below the median salaries paid by their peer institutions.8
That doesn’t bode well for attracting and keeping the best instructors to teach our students, so we hope legislators will pay attention to salaries in higher education as well.
We’ll know their priorities when they show us their budget.
6https://files.nc.gov/ncosbm/documents/files/BudgetBook_2018-19_web.pdf, pp. 2, 45.
8http://www.northcarolina.edu/apps/bog/index.php?mode=browse_premeeting&mid=5630&code=bog, Committee on Budget &Finance, Item 2, p. 26.