Teacher Pipeline and Teacher Pay
For more than a decade, the teacher pipeline in NC has been shrinking as fewer teachers enter the profession and more retire early or leave to pursue other careers. The shrinking pipeline is a critical issue for the state; fully staffing classrooms with high-quality professionals is essential to our students’ and our state’s future. According to a 2014 report for the American Economic Association, students with quality teachers were “…more likely to attend college, earn higher salaries, and [were] less likely to have children as teenagers,” (Chetty, Friedman, and Rockoff, 2014). Quality teachers with experience, advanced degrees, proper compensation, and subject-specific certification all contribute to student achievement.
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” -Benjamin Franklin
However, in recent decades, NC has not shown the commitment necessary to ensure that high-quality educators are leading our classrooms and schools. With stagnant teacher pay raises, reduced retirement benefits, elimination of advanced-degree salary increases, and other detrimental measures taken by the NC General Assembly, teaching has become a less attractive profession in NC than it was in previous years.
According to a 2019 research brief by the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina, the UNC school system, made up of 16 public universities, is the largest supplier of public school teachers in the state. As shown in Figure 1, there has been a fairly steady decline over the years in the number of students enrolled in a bachelor’s program in education, a critical pathway for the teacher pipeline. Between 2012 and 2021, enrollment in bachelor’s programs dropped 35% (from 12,434 to 7,901) while enrollment in master’s programs dropped 9% (from 5,918 to 5,411). (Read The Facts on the NC Teacher Pipeline for more information.)
Figure 1. Enrollment in Education Programs in the UNC System 2012 – 2021The majority of the UNC system’s minority-serving institutions (ECSU, FSU, NCA&T, NCCU, UNCP, and WSSU), whose early-career teachers are predominately racial/ethnic minorities, have been especially hard hit by enrollment declines. With the exception of NCCU, the enrollment and number of programs dropped dramatically for all schools. For example, ECSU lost 72% of its education student enrollment along with 50% of its program offerings between 2012 and 2021.
In addition to fewer teachers entering the profession, more teachers are leaving due to a number of factors that were exacerbated by the pandemic:
- Low and stagnant salaries (e.g. maximum salary of $54,000 after 25 years w/bachelor’s degree)
- High stress and increasing workload
- No advanced degree pay
- No career status (e.g. due-process rights)
- No retirement medical benefits
The problem of attracting and retaining teachers has been growing for years. In response, some districts have started “grow your own” programs to nurture potential teachers, have added signing bonuses for new teachers, and some have even partnered with developers to provide affordable housing for local teachers. However, the shortages are too large and the problems are too systemic for individual districts to overcome. Other states have started lowering teaching requirements, but these efforts don’t address the real problems facing the profession. Lowering the overall professional competency of teachers harms the quality of instruction provided for our children. The quality of our children’s teachers matters. If our collective goal is to improve educational instruction, then lowering standards will not help our children’s academic success.
In NC, state-level action is needed to affirm the importance of our educators to our state’s successful future. Our leaders must treat teachers with the professional respect they deserve, which includes paying them a competitive salary. Currently, NC’s teacher salaries are ranked as some of the lowest in the nation, falling behind our neighboring states and making it even harder for NC schools to attract and retain high-quality educators.
Table 1. Average Starting Salaries in North Carolina and Surrounding States
The NEA reports that in recent years, the growth in NC teacher pay has been the lowest in the nation. Although the 2021-23 and July 2022 budgets both increased teacher salaries, the increases are far less than what’s needed to close the gaps created by years of neglect. (Read The Facts on Teacher Pay in North Carolina for more information)
The NC General Assembly, with its budgetary power (and a $6 billion surplus in 2022), has the ability to dramatically change the condition of the NC teacher pipeline. Unfortunately, to date, the state leaders have neglected their constitutional obligation to fund schools at a level that provides a “sound basic education” for all children. (Read The Facts on Leandro for more information.)
Watch our webinar:
Teacher Pipeline: What Are We Going to Do? (March 10, 2022) Bryan Proffitt, Vice President of the NC Association of Educators, and Amanda Boshoff, Principal of Salem Middle School (Wake County) discuss NC’s teacher pipeline problem and strategies to address it.