Education was clearly a priority for lawmakers in this year’s short session as reflected in the 2016 state budget.
Education spending overall has increased by $513 million over last year’s budget, a 4.2% increase. Education funding represents the lion’s share of the state’s total General Fund budget at 56.8%. $314 million of the education spending increase is dedicated to K-12 students, and K-12 education spending has increased by $1.1 billion since Republicans have had control of the legislature – even after adjusting for inflation.
The 2016 budget raised teacher pay to a more competitive level, but it also includes incentives and rewards for the kinds of high-performing teachers most valued in our classrooms: those who do an outstanding job of helping their students become “career and college ready.”
“On the whole, this budget does a wonderful job of rewarding teachers, state employees, within the limited resources we’ve had, provides stability in budgeting for the future, which is very important, and tax relief for working families in this state,” said chief budget writer Representative Nelson Dollar. “You just really can’t get a better combination than that.”
In years past, blanket pay raises were given to teachers regardless of individual performance or merit, but Republican leaders have been advocating a policy of compensation tied to performance and experience. This year’s budget took significant steps in that direction. It offers a marked increase in education funding overall that includes another round of teacher raises, teacher bonus programs, and merit pay options.
In 2016, North Carolina public school teachers will receive an average annual salary increase of 4.7%. This comes after a pay increase for starting teachers of 7.0% in 2014 and 3.8% in 2015. Over last three Republican state budgets, teachers received a cumulative average pay raise of 15.5 percent.
- 2014: 7.0%. SB744, S.9.1.(a), increased starting pay to $33,000
- 2015: 3.8%. HB97, S.9.1.(a), increased starting pay to $35,000
- 2016: 4.7%. HB1030, S.9.1.(a), increased average pay to over $50,150 (first time)
What’s all that mean in terms of real dollars for the current school year? Take the hypothetical case of Mrs. Jones, a 47-year old third grade teacher in the Chapel Hill-Carborro City School District. Mrs. Jones graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from NC State University in 1991. Mrs. Jones has been doing the same job at the same school now for 25 years, and her students just love her. A few years ago, her husband — who has also taught for 25 years — encouraged her to get an online Master’s Degree in Educational Media in her spare time from App State as well as her NBPTS certification. So how much will Mrs. Jones make this year?
According this year’s North Carolina Teacher’s pay schedule, Mrs. Jones, who works ten months out of the year, will make $62,220 in base bay and another $15,555 in local supplemental pay, for a total annual take home pay of $77,775.00, or $7,775 per month. According to the school district’s website, Mrs. Jones also receives the following benefits:
- NC’s Teacher and State Employee Retirement (pension) Program. This contribution is calculated at of 16.12% of the annual base salary, or Mrs. Jones’s case, $10,029.86.
- Full Hospitalization/Medical Coverage (worth $5,471 annually)
- Paid Sick Leave
- Paid Leaves of Absence
- Shared Leave Program
- Paid Annual/Vacation Leave
- Paid Holidays (10-11 days for 10-month employees)
- Local Longevity Pay
- State Longevity Pay
- Jury Duty or Military Leave (no loss of pay)
- Workers’ Compensation
- Disability Income
- Death Benefit
- Liability Insurance
- Cafeteria Benefits Program Options
- Dental Insurance (purchased by the employee)
- Endowed Teaching Chairs
- Educator Extra-Credit Program (discounts from local businesses)
- Student Enrichment Grant Program
According to the General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division, the pay schedule established in the state’s 2016 budget will raise average teacher pay to an unprecedented $50,000 a year. Raising average teacher pay to this level will make it the highest in the Southeast and allows North Carolina to be more competitive. The immediate goal in the minds of legislators is to bring that average up to $55,000 over the next three years.
It’s important to note that this figure is an average, meaning that some teachers will earn more and some less. Calculating average teacher pay for the future is not meant to be predictive of actual outcomes when it takes effect in next school year.
The average figure of $50,000 is calculated based on all state and local funding sources for teacher pay, including the 2016-2017 State Salary Schedules, local school board pay supplements, extra duty pay, and cash payments ‘in lieu’ of earned sick leave or vacations. In short, everything that makes up an employee’s taxable income and can be reported on the teacher’s IRS Form W-2.
This average is a calculated projection based on the assumption that current factors remain constant during the 2016-2017 school year. Obviously, all of the factors that go into the calculation cannot reasonably be expected to remain constant. Any change in the variables could raise or lower the overall calculated average that is being projected for next year: senior-level teachers may retire, pass away, or move out of state; local school boards may adjust formulas for supplemental pay eligibility; the number of teachers with master’s degrees or NBPTS certification can change.
But this projection is the best available scenario used to reach the desired goal of raising teacher pay to a specific benchmark. Placed in context with other programs and opportunities offered to teachers in the current budget, reaching this goal is a worthwhile component of a vision for a valued profession.
Pilot programs included in the current budget will make bonuses available to 3rd grade teachers whose students pass reading tests. Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Career Training and Certification teachers can earn bonuses for each test their students pass. The total budget allocation for teacher incentive programs is $14.9 million.
The 3rd Grade Reading Teacher Performance Incentive Programs are 2-year pilots offering bonuses to 3rd grade reading teachers who rank in the top 25% as measured by “growth.” Growth is defined as improvement in class scores in the current year over those of the previous year (2017 over 2016, and 2018 over 2017). The total budget allocation for these programs is $10 million to be split between a statewide pilot and a pilot for each school district. High performing 3rd grade reading teachers can earn up to an additional $6,500 in bonuses.
The Exceptional Results Incentive Program offers a bonus to teachers whose students scoring 3 points or more on Advanced Placement exams or 4 points or more on the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme exams. The total budget allocation for these programs is $4.3 million. Bonuses for this pilot will be capped at $2,000 per teacher per year.
Advanced Placement is a program created by the College Board which offers college-level curricula and examinations to high school students. The College Board is a private non-profit organization that was formed in 1899 as the College Entrance Examination Board to expand access to higher education. College Board develops and administers standardized tests and curricula used by K–12 and post-secondary education institutions to promote college-readiness and as part of the college admissions process. AP tests are scored on a 1 to 5 scale: 5–Extremely well qualified; 4–Well qualified; 3–Qualified; 2–Possibly qualified; 1–No recommendation
The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme is a challenging two-year curriculum for smart, motivated high school students aged 16–19. The program provides an internationally accepted qualification for entry into higher education and is recognised by many universities worldwide. Points are awarded from 1 to 7, with 7 being equal to A+, 6 equal to A, and so on. In order to receive an IB diploma, candidates must receive an average of four (or C) out of a possible seven points for six subjects. The IB diploma is accepted at over 2,000 universities in 75 countries. The IB also maintains a list of universities offering scholarships to IBDP graduates under conditions specified by each institution, including 58 colleges and universities in the United States.
The Certification Incentive Program is a 2-year pilot that offers bonuses for teachers whose Career & Technical Education students meet a threshold of competence and mastery of subject matter and receive industry certification and/or credentials. Career & Technical Education prepares students with the academic and technical skills, and the knowledge and training, necessary to succeed in a wide range of high-wage, high-skill, high-demand careers. The total budget allocation for this program is $600,000. Bonuses will be capped at $2,000 per teacher per year.
Terry Stoops, the education point-man from the John Locke Foundation, reports that in “Evaluation of the Teacher Incentive Fund: Implementation and Impacts of Pay-for-Performance After Three Years,” researchers from Mathematica Policy Research examined the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), a federal program that supported performance-pay compensation in high-need schools. They concluded: “Pay-for-performance had small, positive impacts on students’ reading and math achievement. After three years of TIF implementation, average student achievement was 1 to 2 percentile points higher in schools that offered pay-for-performance bonuses than in schools that did not. This difference was equivalent to a gain of about four additional weeks of learning.”
The Teacher Merit Pay Program is a 3-year pilot program for teachers who take on extra duties. Ten state school districts will experiment with pay supplements to teachers who take on advanced roles (e.g. managing extra students, mentoring colleagues, overseeing information technology records). The total budget allocation for teacher merit pay pilot is $1.1 million. Job responsibilities that would qualify teachers for the supplemental pay must include at least one of the following:
- Becoming a “Teacher of Record” by teaching a greater number of students and being accountable for their performance.
- Becoming a lead classroom teacher among a group of teachers and being the teacher of record for all students taught by that group.
- Leading a school-wide effort to implement data-driven instructional techniques.
- Completing training that certifies the teacher as an in-house provider of professional development or functioning as an instructional content-area coach.
Critics of these innovations and progress have tried to paint the Republican-led legislature as being hostile to educators and to education in general. They charge them with passing legislation that dismantles education and shows disrespect to teachers. [Editor’s note: For an excellent rebuttal to many of these myths, be sure to read Phil Kirk’s recent editorial in the Raleigh News and Observer. Mr. Kirk is chairman emeritus of the State Board of Education.]
No untruth is harder to correct than the politically-motivated myth-building of those out of power who are angling for a speedy return. The themes trotted out by the left, and amplified by the partisan press, have been that Republicans have fatally cut education spending; that they refuse to pay teachers adequately, out of some animus towards the profession that they have divined; and that teachers are flocking to other states for better pay and greater respect.
None of these claims is can be supported by facts and evidence. Education spending under Republicans has increased markedly in recent years. And teachers have received a series of pay hikes when they had been neglected in previous years.
The Department of Public Instruction reports that the overall teacher turnover rate for the 2014-15 school year was 14.8 percent, a 0.7 percentage point increase from the prior year. Critics allege that the higher turnover rate is attributable to dissatisfaction with pay and that this is the reason teachers leave North Carolina to teach in another state, or leave the profession altogether.
While the left has decried the turnover numbers reported by DPI, these reports cannot point to what specifically has motivated some teachers to move to another state precisely because that data is not even collected.
Education expert Terry Stoops writes that “existing [teacher] separation requirements do not ask employees to provide details about their subsequent career plans or identify factors that motivated them to leave. Without that information,” he says, “we are left with little more than theories and speculation, which is ideal for politicos and advocacy organizations but useless for policymakers.”
The broad categories contained in the DPI turnover report include those who have retired, died, or moved to another school district within the state. Catherine Truitt, the governor’s education adviser, has pointed out that if you exclude those categories “you’re left with a turnover rate of 4.1 percent” who move to another state or quit the teaching profession. “About 1.1 percent of our teachers leave the state for teaching jobs. But Truitt says that “about double that come into the state. We are actually a net importer of teachers in North Carolina.”
Meanwhile, the North Carolina economy is surging and, in the context of a weak national recovery, our economy is doing better nearly every other state. Revenue projections are anticipating a $425 million surplus. We’re seeing the lowest jobless rate in a decade. All this while lowering personal and business tax rates, reducing job-killing regulations, and increasing parental choice in education.
The teacher recruitment and retention picture is not quite as bleak as some would prefer. In July, 2016, candidate for governor and current state Attorney General Roy Cooper took to social media to breathlessly announce that, “Many of our best teachers are leaving us for better pay and more respect. We have to keep them here.”
Well, “keeping them here” is exactly what the legislature has done in recent years by making investment in education a priority. In August, the Raleigh News & Observer reluctantly reported that in Wake County “teacher recruitment is strong” and the school district has hired 1,600 new teachers: “Wake County school leaders say pay raises have helped bring in both new and seasoned educators this year. Two years ago, leaders warned that many teachers were leaving Wake because they were dissatisfied with statewide education policies. On Monday, they painted a brighter picture of teacher recruitment and retention leading up to the Aug. 29 start for traditional-calendar schools. The General Assembly for the past few years has raised teacher pay, including an average 4.7 percent raise this year.”
The manufactured “teacher exodus narrative” that the left has worked so carefully to construct is crumbling even within the pages of their own news outlets. The “Carolina Comeback” seems not to be limited to the state’s economic profile alone, but extends to a comeback in the promise of a “sound, basic education” for students across North Carolina after having been too often neglected in years past.
A Few Numbers for Back-to-School
Bob Luebke over at Civitas provides us with some interesting numbers:
- 1,753,632 – Total number of K-12 students in public schools (1,459,852), charter schools (77,791), private schools (97,721) and home schools (118,268).
- 94,421 – Number of teachers employed in NC public schools in 2015-16.
- $4,345,660,313 – Amount spent in 2015 on salaries for public school classroom teachers ($3,063,177,133) and estimated matching benefits ($1,282,483,180).
- $8,733,375,580 – 2016-17 state appropriations for K-12 public schools in North Carolina.
- $5,471 – Amount state pays for health insurance for each full-time teacher.
- $8,084 – Average state retirement contribution by the state to teachers with average salary. (16.12 percent x average teacher salary of $50,150 =$8,084).
- $607.8 million – Money awarded to public schools in 2015-16 from proceeds from the NC Education Lottery.
- 181,063 – Number of government employees working in public schools. Includes state-funded (139,235), federally funded employees (12,988) and local-funded employees (28,840).
- $478,843,563 – Cost to North Carolina to transport nearly 900,000 students daily on 13,300 buses (2014-15).
- 7,701 – Number of full-time personnel who teach and work in North Carolina’s 159 charter schools