Thursday, April 28, 2016

Teacher Pay Decay

WRAL in North Carolina has created a documentary looking at the state of pay in the state of North Carolina. It's not great. Once you correct for inflation, North Carolina teacher pay since 1999 has dropped 13%. But even if you aren't that interested in North Carolina, stick around-- there's news here for everyone.

Not a huge surprise. North Carolina, since its great conversion from a progressive state to a aggressively regressive GOP stronghold, has worked hard to make teaching unsustainable as a career, as well as chopping the daylights out of teacher pay, to the point that even when they're trying to look like they're increasing pay, they're still shafting a whole lot of teachers (in particular, the life-long career folks). As WRAL reports, back in 2001-2002, NC ranked 19th in nation; today, they rank 47th.

And if you like anecdotes with your data-- two weeks back I was in Raleigh for the NPE convention. While there, I was contacted by a former student who now lives there. My wife and I joined my former student, her husband, and two other couples at supper. Of six grown young adult professionals, three were former North Carolina teachers. They all seemed like nice folks-- but they had had enough.

The WRAL story is of interest to everyone because in the process of whipping up an interactive graphic based on National Center for Education Statistics, they came up with a map that shows how every state has fared over the past decade-and-a-half.

I recommend that you look for yourself, but here are some highlights.

Teacher pay nationally has, adjusted for inflation, dropped 1.8%

Nine states have seen teacher pay drop from 6.5% to as much as 13.7%.

That "top" 13.7% drop belongs to Indiana. Congratulations, hoosiers.

The biggest growth was 21% in Wyoming.

A total of twenty-four states have seen average teacher salary drop since 1999.

Every "dropping" state is touching at least one other-- except Texas. It's proudly isolated in its teacher pay cutting. Maryland and Kentucky are growth states completely surrounded by drop states. Connecticut would be completely isolated as the only drop state in New England except for that tiny little spot where it kind of touches Delaware.

Granted, these are state average figures which allow a huge amount of variation from place to place. But still, in general, teachers in almost half of the nation would be better off partying like it's 1999.

It was kind of a jolt to see these figures. Teacher pay has not been the kind of broad issue in education it was back when I started teaching; generally it's brought up by fans of merit pay, performance pay, and other plans focused on paying a few teachers more and most all other teachers less, or by teachers who work (or used to work) in the bottom tier of teacher pay states. Clearly, in some states, inflation has hidden the steady march backwards. But go look at the map-- while we've been talking about Common Core and testing, teacher pay has been eroding in many states. Add that to your list of why teacher program enrollments are down in colleges across the country.


  1. Delaware. Connecticut. Almost touching?

    Otherwise, great post.

  2. Sorry to be picky but on the last US map I saw, CT didn’t touch Delaware

  3. I teach in Georgia. In SY 2015-16, while salaries stagnated and continued to stay below those of neighboring systems (the difference coming from local supplements added to state base pay), my system's local funds went toward new high-tech turf fields (the same turf used on NFL practice fields) for all three high schools and Dell touch-screen laptops issued to every high school student in the county.

  4. On the subject of worker pay, I just found this YouTube video from CRACKED, with a critique of UBER, one that is relevant to what you posted.

    ( 8:01 - )

    CRACKED references the fast-dropping pay for Uber drivers. Lately, it's fallen to $9/hour.

    Why do they keep lowering the pay for their drivers?

    "(UBER) has been slashing their pay ever since (they started) ... Some of (the reason) is just because they can.

    "How do you maintain good drivers if you gradually lower what you're paying them?

    "You don't. You lose great drivers while increasing or maintaining the demand, which can only mean that you're incentivizing worse drivers --- the kind of person whose time IS worth less than $9/hour --- to sign up and snag as many rides as they can."

    I also did a Google search and found that a lot of Teach for America Corps Members teacher for the minimum two years, work for the TFA organization in the Recruitment and Marketing Departments, then move on to...

    You guessed --- UBER, where they make big money in those same departments. I found countless Linkedin profiles that have this resume.

  5. I (sort of jokingly)tell my students, who are rookie drivers, to avoid Wal Mart & Kmart on teachers' pay day.

    It's amazing to me how so many free-market apologists cannot fathom why people of ability would avoid employment in insecure , often dangerous, situations that do not pay well where the benefit packages can often be better described as "fringe liabilities".

    The UBER example above is instructive.

    I had a similar experience working for "" tutoring physics & algebra online. Pay was only $12/hr, but they wanted you to be 'on-call' for $5/hr for times where you were able to sign-up for & wanted plenty of 'floaters' to be available for free. It was a convenient way to make a little extra change, BUT they started cutting the availability of the scheduled time and wanted me (and I suspect others) to float more for free. Additionally, most of their $$$ is made by lucrative contracts with school systems and public libraries...I wrote a nasty, profane letter to quit.