Truth tracker: Does NC’s teacher pay really rank 33rd in the nation?

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The loudest voice for North Carolina’s teachers wants lawmakers to spend at least some of the state’s $6.5 billion in unexpected additional tax revenue on education.

The North Carolina Association of Educators says it has spent more than $100,000 to air digital ads this month targeting voters in the districts of 10 lawmakers across the state — including four in the CBS 17 viewing area.

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“In a time where the fiscal outlook is really strong for the state, where there is money to be invested, I think we need to take a hard look at what is being done with that money, and start investing it in public education to really reverse the lack of investment that we’ve had over the last 10 years,” NCAE spokesman Kevin Rogers said.

CBS17.com reached out to all four in the area for their reactions, and two — State Sen. Kirk deViere and State Rep. Billy Richardson, both Cumberland County Democrats — responded.

“We’re at the first step of a very long process and negotiation,” deViere said of the efforts to end the state’s two-year budget stalemate.

CBS17.com also took a closer look at the veracity of the claims in the ads.

THE CLAIM: The ad says because of two years with without raises, North Carolina’s teachers rank 33rd in the nation in teacher pay.

THE FACTS: The National Education Association in April ranked the average teacher pay in each state and found the average teacher salary in North Carolina was $54,150 — putting the state No. 33 nationally. 

The average starting salary ranks even lower — No. 43, with an average of $37,049, the NEA said.

Source: National Education Association.

“I think the fact of the matter is that the state of North Carolina has not kept up with the national average,” said Charles Clotfelter, an expert of education policy at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

“If you think that the teacher pay is not only an indication of how we value this resource, but also as an instrument for being able to hire and retain talented people, that is certainly an indication that the state is not keeping up.”

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ANOTHER CLAIM: The ad opens with a newspaper headline from June 8 saying a bill to eliminate the state’s corporate income tax reached the Senate floor, with the narrator saying educators and schools “have been neglected by politicians more interested in tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.”

Richardson disagrees with that characterization, saying advancing that bill was part of the give-and-take of lawmaking.

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Berger “is never going to go in with Medicaid expansion,” Richardson said. “And basically … because of our drawn lines in the sand, we went two years without a budget … that basically served no one. And because I was willing to compromise and work with the current leadership on those issues, they got upset.”

Rogers says the ads are designed to speak to the voters in those districts — and are not specifically calling out any lawmakers for any past votes.

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“We’re not targeting Rep. Richardson in any way,” Rogers said, adding that the group “just wants to remind him of what’s at stake and make his constituents aware of what’s going on.”

Both Richardson and deViere say their desires for education funding really aren’t that different from what the NCAE want.

“Our goals are almost identical, if you really want to look at it,” Richardson said. “What I try to tell them is, there are many roads — when I leave Fayetteville to go to Raleigh, the typical road is on (Interstates) 95 (and) 40. 

“But I can take (State Route) 87 to Sanford, get on (U.S.) Highway 1 to Raleigh. I can take (U.S.) 401 all the way to Raleigh,” he added. “Just because I take a different road and a different approach than they do, doesn’t mean I’m against it or trying to reform and improve education. On the contrary, I’m almost radical about it.”

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