It seems I offended some folks when I recently referred to the NCEA as a union. After checking with Merriam-Webster.com, it appears the correct term should be “labor union – an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members’ interests in respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions.” While words do matter and “labor union”, appears to be more accurate, I hope the shorter version is acceptable.
Since the passage of the NC Budget, we have heard much about teacher salaries as if that was the only component of employee compensation. But there is a missing piece here.
The NCAE says teachers’ salaries average $41,000. But they intentionally skewed the number downward by leaving out health insurance, pension fund benefits and social security payments – all of which North Carolina provides our teachers.
Add in those benefits – complete the picture – and teacher pay (average) rises dramatically to over $55,000.
The NCAE knew this because it lobbied for all those benefits. On its website it states, “The maintenance of a viable health insurance plan and a fully funded retirement system are vital to recruiting and retaining a stable, vibrant workforce for North Carolina’s PreK-12 public schools.“
Not many of our friends in the private sector are offered pension benefits that allow them to retire after 30 years, regardless of age. That’s a fact about teacher’s compensation the NCAE never mentions when blasting Republicans.
It’s time we get beyond the political finger-pointing and posturing and determine what is fair compensation for teachers.
The salaries we pay our teachers must be competitive with the four states that surround us. I’ve been lambasted from six directions for voting for the budget but I’ve been amazed by the critics’ lack of actual, reliable data. As an engineer, I like numbers. I realize every state funds education differently. There are salaries, current benefits and even unfunded future benefits – that the state has promised and will have to pay down the road.
For instance, North Carolina has promised to pay teachers $33.3 billion in future benefits (for retirement and health care). But it hasn’t set aside a penny to meet those obligations. That’s an unfunded liability. That’s bigger than the entire state budget.
All that said, teachers’ pay is measureable and it’s not a huge task to find an economist to do a well-documented study to measure how well we pay our teachers compared to our four neighboring states.
Focusing on our neighboring states may sound a little provincial, but they are our most direct competitors, not just in education but also in jobs and economic development. Once we determine how we are doing compared to our neighbors, if needed we can look further afield. But, right now, I’d be happy to have clear, unbiased, unpoliticized numbers to see how we’re doing compared to South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee.