North Carolina has reached a new low. Competitive pay for teachers is 49th in the nation. According to the Economic Policy Institute, teacher pay in North Carolina is a whopping 35.5 percent behind pay for other college graduates in the state. The politicians in Raleigh keep touting how well they are doing for public school teachers.
Teacher strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Colorado have raised the profile of deteriorating teacher pay as a critical public policy issue. Teachers and parents are protesting cutbacks in education spending and a squeeze on teacher pay that persist well into the economic recovery from the Great Recession. These spending cuts are not the result of weak state economies. Rather, state legislatures have enacted them to finance tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. This paper underscores the crisis in teacher pay by updating our data series on the teacher pay penalty—the percent by which public school teachers are paid less than comparable workers.
Providing teachers with a decent middle-class living commensurate with other professionals with similar education is not simply a matter of fairness. Effective teachers are the most important school-based determinant of student educational performance.1 To ensure a high-quality teaching workforce, schools must retain experienced teachers and recruit high-quality students into the profession. Pay is an important component of retention and recruitment.