RALEIGH N.C. (WNCN) – With state pay raises and local bonuses, on the surface, it may look like North Carolina teachers are making more money on average than they did two decades ago.
But wages don’t reach as far as they used to when you count in the growing cost of living and inflation.
Education advocate Kristin Beller said she is happy to see Wake County Schools approve $3,750 bonuses paid out now through this time next year.
“A step in the right direction,” Beller said. “Definitely, staff need to have their hard work and extra hours recognized. It is definitely not the solution though.”
Through the new state budget, teachers across North Carolina can expect an average of a 5 percent pay raise over the next two years, plus another $1,000 or $1,500 bonus depending on how much they make.
But Beller said bonuses only go so far in filling classrooms long-term.
“Bonuses honor and recognize hard work that’s already happened, but it does not do enough to attract new people into education,” Beller said.
According to the National Education Association, North Carolina ranks 33rd for average teacher pay at just over $54,000 annually.
“Teachers have been coming up with the short end of the stick for way too long with regard to salaries,” Judy Henion, with the Classroom Teachers Association of NC said. “The money that is coming from the state is adequate if it is spent in a proper budget and a budget that would take into account the work and the portion that the teachers are responsible for.”
Data from 2019-20 by the National Center For Education Statistics shows that adjusted for inflation, teachers are taking home 8.7 percent less in North Carolina than they did more than 20 years ago.
That means even with the state’s 5 percent pay increase, statewide and local bonuses, it’s a tall task for districts to match the same reach teacher pay had decades ago.
“It’s really hard for our public school staff to know that they have the economic stability to provide for their own families,” Beller said. “No matter what role you’re working in a public school system, you’re not taking home the purchasing power that you did 10 years ago.”