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The Daily Tar Heel

NC schooled on teacher treatment

The financial website said it created its list based on a number of factors, including teacher salary and the opportunity for income growth.

While he is often skeptical of BuzzFeed-like lists, Eric Houck, an education professor at UNC, said he finds the ranking accurate.

“To see the state sort of lag behind in keeping its commitment to teachers by increasing their salaries over time — I can see that it’s happened,” he said.

Houck said these salary freezes are especially evident among first-year teachers, who until last year had capped salaries for six consecutive years.

The new state budget includes a starting teacher pay raise to $35,000, along with a one-time $750 bonus — but Houck said this does not help.

“A bonus is a fixed amount of money. If you have a lower income, the bonus is going to seem like more,” he said. “And if you have a higher income, if you’re a more experienced teacher, the bonus is going to seem like less.”

Houck said teachers are unlikely to pocket a significant portion of that bonus, as bonuses are taxed at higher rates than regular income.

“It’s not a very motivating amount of money,” he said.

But Terry Stoops, director of education studies at the right-leaning John Locke Foundation, said the new ranking is not accurate.

“It’s an obscure website that creates rankings in order to attract visitors,” he said. “Not a reliable source of information of the conditions of North Carolina’s public schools.”

The study focuses on teacher compensation, and while pay is important, he said, it’s only one reason people decide to teach in the state.

“They may decide to come to a state because of its climate because relatives or acquaintances live there,” he said. “It could be because of the amenities that the state provides.”

Stoops said there is talk in the N.C. General Assembly of a permanent pay raise for teachers in 2016 in addition to the one passed this fall.

Matt Ellinwood, a policy analyst at the N.C. Justice Center, said the recent salary increases are symbolically important but too small to compensate for declines in the last decade.

Between 2000 and 2012, Ellinwood said there was a 13.7 percent drop in teacher pay, and recent teacher turnover has averaged around 14.5 percent — up from 12 percent in 2011.

He said this two-point difference might seem small, but it represents a decline of thousands of teachers. Ellinwood said there is clearly something going on where fewer people are wanting to become teachers. The state’s teacher preparation programs have seen drops in enrollment ranging from 18 to 25 percent, he said.

“I think it’s fair to say this is one of the most difficult places to be a teacher.”

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