NC ranks 50th in teacher ranking poll

WalletHub dealt North Carolina a crushing blow last week when a study ranking the best and worst states for public school teachers placed the Tar Heel State as 50th of 51 territories that include the District of Columbia.

WalletHub is a leading personal finance website, analyzed all 50 states and D.C. across 13 categories, ranging from average starting salary, public school spending per pupil and projected number of teachers per student by 2022.  

It is no secret that North Carolina has not been a high-profile destination for teachers in America. The state’s annual salary for teachers is among the lowest in the nation.

The state’s average teacher salary of $45,967 which is $10,000 less than the national average. The average starting pay for a teacher in North Carolina is around $30,000 a year, and it can take up to 15 years to get to $40,000.

“The 10-year change, I think, is the most alarming here, at just an increase of 10 percent over the last 10 years or so,” said Jill Gonzalez, an analyst for WalletHub. “It’s clear that their salaries really aren’t keeping up with inflation. I think teachers can say that all over the country, but the rates at which North Carolina really hasn’t been increasing over the past 10 years is so much worse than all these other states that we’re seeing.”

The severity of these numbers can be put into context when examining neighboring states in the southeast. In South Carolina, the median starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $33,259.

That number only increases when looking at North Carolina’s other southern neighbor, Georgia, where teachers with the same qualifications started out at $38,925. 

North Carolina passed a state law in 2013 that eliminated the tenure system among public school teachers and instead replaced it with multi-year contracts.

This action by the state came with the goal of “[moving] North Carolina to a performance-based system for paying teachers instead of one based on longevity”, but this did not add any incentive for new teachers to seek employment in the state with no sense of job security to start with or look forward to.

The news associating North Carolina with poor teaching situations has influenced the career decisions of future teachers at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

“Since I was born and raised in New York, I have always loved the thought of living in North Carolina and pursuing my teaching career here,” said Logan Brunner, a UNCW freshman and prospective education major. “But, with the recent news about public teaching in this state, I have been rethinking my original plan about staying here. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I have completely given up on staying in North Carolina.”

NC legislators are likely lobbying on the hope that teachers will put their obligation to teach before their own financial situations. Until then, the N.C. General Assembly continues to negotiate budgeting proposals for teachers’ salaries with little promise. However students studying education remain hopeful.

“My whole purpose of becoming a teacher is to educate the young minds of the U.S. and to make our future better, since the kids of now are our future,” she continued, “I do believe that this statistic could change by the time I become a teacher.”