The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district in North Carolina is delaying Project ADVANCE, its plan to adopt a new model of teacher pay that rewards “professional development” rather than longevity. The Chapel Hill News reported on February 8th that the district now plans to increase its local supplement to teachers a recommended $1.9 million over the state base pay (which is $38,500 for new teachers, up to $55,000 for teachers with 25+ years of experience), in order to remain competitive with another local district (Wake County) that has increased its local supplement for beginning teachers “worth 17.75 percent of their base pay.”
Local pay supplements for teachers in North Carolina were broached in this fayobserver.com article from Jan 15, 2016:
“In part, counties use supplements as a way to entice the best and brightest teachers. Cumberland County pays more in supplements than all but 13 school systems in North Carolina, but some of the wealthier school districts pay far more.
In 2013, the average teacher supplement for the highest-paying school system, Chapel Hill-Carboro City, was $6,441, compared with $3,614 for Cumberland County. Wake County, whose supplements ranked third-highest that year, in October agreed to raise teacher supplements by between $875 and $3,202 a year, based on experience.
[School Superintendent Frank] Till [Jr.] said it’s always a recruitment concern when wealthier school systems offer beginning teachers more money than Cumberland County. But he said it may be an even bigger concern now when it comes to retaining the older, most experienced educators.
The latest state teacher pay raise – the first in years – increases the amount teachers receive every five years until the pay is capped at $50,000 when they reach 25 years of service. The legislature also eliminated longevity pay, rolling it into teachers’ base salaries. For that reason, analysts say the legislature actually approved a 5.5 percent teacher pay raise, not the 7 percent raise that Gov. Pat McCrory claimed.
Till said more and more older teachers are retiring and going to work in other states that pay more. For some older teachers, it’s hard to keep working when there is no incentive of a pay raise, he said.”
Obviously, the local supplement system of pay as it stands is inequitable: less-wealthy schools districts can’t compete for “the best and brightest teachers.” The level of competitive pay varies by state as well, as noted in the previous article (although cost of living by state should be factored into salary as well).
North Carolina teachers are not exactly rolling in money: according to an abc11.com article, in 2015 North Carolina ranked as 42nd in the United States for teacher pay. “According to estimates by the National Education Association, the national average teacher salary for 2014-2015 is $57,379. In North Carolina, it is $47,783….The NEA report also reveals per pupil spending decreased from $8,632 in 2014 to $8,620 in 2015, ranking North Carolina among the lowest in the nation.”
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools District’s Project ADVANCE is now slated to fully begin in 2017, and according to the article, to earn more money
“teachers will be expected to advance through four achievement levels, each with requirements for additional training, skill development and evaluation. The levels are tied to salary increases ranging from $1,500 to $5,000, and there’s opportunity to earn more money by taking on leadership roles.”
However, Sally Merryman, who is the president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Association of Educators, recently addressed the school board to say that “teachers are already overwhelmed by a slew of learning initiatives and increasing levels of paperwork. She’s worried the professional training component of Project ADVANCE will simply pile more on their already full plates.”
This “professional development” pay can be seen as replacing the pay NC teachers used to get for a Master’s degree (but no longer do); however, whereas getting a Master’s degree is a known quantity of time spent, credits required, content covered and tuition cost, the Project ADVANCE training particulars remain a mystery. As longevity pay has been eliminated, any increase in pay for opting-in to the training will top out rather quickly once the “achievement levels” have been completed. And as this is a new program, there is no telling whether the “achievement” is as transferable/portable as a Master’s degree to other states.
Finally, all of these ways of differentiating teacher pay by districts has the effect of further disenfranchising districts, schools, and students who cannot afford to pay for any of these schemes. It is not just a problem confined to North Carolina, it is nationwide, and the “haves” benefit in every way, including publicly funded education, over the “have-nots.” Perhaps instead of wrangling over the details of state and district teacher pay schemes, our energies would be better concentrated on achieving equity in public education, period. But in the meantime, teachers have to earn a living.