New findings released Monday by the National Education Association showed an improvement in teacher pay and per-pupil spending in North Carolina last year. Despite the improvement, the state remains well behind the national average in these two areas.
According to the report, the average salary for North Carolina public school teachers in 2017 was $49,970, a pay increase of about $2,000 from 2016. The state ranked 39th in average teacher pay last year, an improvement from 41st in 2016.
North Carolina spent on average $9,329 on each public school student, almost a $300 increase per student from 2016. The state ranked 39th in per-pupil spending. It ranked 41st in this area in 2016.
Although the report showed improvements for the state, North Carolina still remained well below the national average in teacher pay and per-pupil spending. The average teacher salary was $59,660, and the average amount spent per-pupil was $11,642 in 2017.
The report predicted continued improvements in North Carolina teacher pay this year. It forecasts that the average teacher’s salary will rise to $50,861 in 2018 and that the state will rank 37th in teacher pay and remain 39th in per-pupil spending.
To the North Carolina Association of Educators, the ranking was “lackluster.” The organization criticized state legislators in a statement Monday, saying that the General Assembly is prioritizing “tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy” over funding for education.
“Our students deserve public schools that have the resources they need to be successful and educators who are respected like the professionals they are,” NCAE President Mark Jewell said. “Instead of prioritizing corporate boardrooms, our elected leaders should be making critical investments in our classrooms.”
The NCAE said it will hold a rally on May 16, the opening day of the legislative session, to lobby legislators for increased funding for education.
Gov. Roy Cooper commented on the state's rankings in a statement Monday afternoon.
"We cannot accept this ranking because teachers must have professional pay, and students must have well qualified teachers," Cooper said.
Cooper recommended the legislature adopt his teacher pay proposal, which called for an additional $271 million investment to raise teacher salaries between 2017-2019. He said that the proposal could get North Carolina "at least to the national average a lot faster."