**Note: If you would rather read this on Google Docs, where the tables below in the blog post were created and look MUCH better (especially on a mobile device,) it can be found here.**
I get rather tired of politicians using spin to tell me how much they have done for me and my ilk, and we are inundated with so much spin that statistics have become worthless. They’re used as nothing but propaganda. So let’s just do basic math with reputable sources and facts and come up with the number about which everybody argues.
What should we be paying teachers?
I decided it made sense to base everything I did here on the year 2008. That was the year the bottom dropped out on the economy and the real estate market collapsed and we went into the worst recession in decades. It was also the end of a decade that saw the first tides turning away from public education. The Charter School Act of 1996 had begun that swing, and it was being helped along by the long range plan to offer “Opportunity Grant” vouchers for private schools for qualifying students.
In other words, the North Carolina General Assembly was devaluing public education in favor of a system that gave parents education choice, but they were also perfectly content with every one of those choices being below average. And they also loved the idea of our tax dollars being controlled by either corporations or churches.
Okay, so I couldn’t help slipping in a little opinion in this blog post, but what’s been happening the past twelve years kind of backs up those optics, does it not?
But from here on out, nothing but fact-based number crunching from sources like the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the NC Office of State Human Resources, inflationtool.com and The Balance (shows no bias and has a clean fact check record via Media Bias Fact Check.)
In reading the tables below, there is a pattern that is created. Each table after the first one builds upon the previous table. The first table below shows the basic salary increase for each year of teaching service between 2008 and 2020. Notice that the percent increase for veteran employees is much less than those early in their career. Keep in mind, also, that there are a lot of economic indicators that help us see how much the US economy has grown since then. A sampling of those are:
- US Gross Domestic Product 2008-2020: +20.3%
- US Inflation: +22.56%
- US Inflation with Compounded Percentages: +24.57%
- US Consumer Price Index: +22.24%
With those numbers in mind, this table represents the NC Salary Schedule for teachers with zero years of experience all the way up to thirty years of experience for the years 2008 and 2020. Notice the increase in each compared to the numbers that the US economy grew between those same years.
NC Salary Schedule Increases 2008-2020
|Years Experience||2008 Salary||2020 Salary||Percent Increase|
The most obvious eye-opener in that table really isn’t an eye-opener to teachers. We already knew the numbers for veteran teachers had stagnated over that time period. But look at what that actually means for those teachers. The following table uses the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index. Basically, this 22.24% increase over the past twelve years means that a person’s salary would have had to have increased by 22.24% over the past twelve years in order to have the same buying power they had in 2008.
Salary Expectations Using Consumer Price Index Increases from 2008-2020
|Years Experience||2008 Actual Salary Schedule||Consumer Price Index % Increase||New Proposed Salary with Equal Consumer Buying Power||2020 Actual Salary Schedule||Amount “Lost” in Consumer Buying Power Per Year|
Those are pretty big numbers lost for veteran teachers. And keep in mind that those are PER YEAR numbers. A twenty year employee has essentially lost about $300 a month (net, assuming ~22% tax rate) in what they can afford to purchase now as compared to 2008. A thirty year employee (and this goes for anybody above 25 years of service,) the number is even more staggering. They have lost over $700 a month in net buying power. In other words, they gained more experience in their profession and presumably got better at their jobs, yet they got paid progressively less each year.
In the table below, I’m using a slightly different number, and that is the total inflation that we have seen in the Southeast United States since 2008. Once again, the numbers for veteran teachers are rather shocking.
Salary Expectations Using Inflation Increases from 2008 – 2020
|Years Experience||2008 Actual Salary Schedule||Inflation % Increase from 2008 to 2020||New Proposed Salary Factoring in Inflation||2020 Actual Salary Schedule||Amount “Lost” to Inflation Per Year|
Two more. What if the General Assembly hadn’t taken away the longevity pay of every public school employee? This is a valid argument for one reason and one reason alone. EVERY other state employee still gets longevity pay. Teachers were stripped of this loyalty bonus back in 2014. So let’s look at what would happen if teachers with ten-plus years of service still got what every other state employee in NC gets. These numbers build upon the previous table showing what inflation increases should have been.
Salary Expectations Based on Inflation Plus Longevity
|Years Experience||2020 Actual Salary Schedule||What Salary Should be Based on Inflation Evidence Above||Longevity % That Should Be Reinstated||New Salary||Amount “Lost” to Inflation and Longevity Per Year|
Finally, when you look at the NC Salary Schedule for 2019-2020, you will notice that teachers receive something called “Step Increases” of $1,000 for each year of service up to fifteen years. And then, it just stops. From year 15 to year 30, you get a total of $2,000 in annual salary increases at year 25. So for the last fifteen years of your career, your income based on ANY economic growth marker highlighted above goes down substantially.
But what would happen if those last fifteen years got the same step increases as the first fifteen? I think most people who work would probably not like to work the last fifteen years of their career losing money each year. That loyalty to a career, and the experience that has given veteran teachers expert status in their field and an inestimable ability to impact young people (and younger teachers,) is worth something. It has value. In fact, it has equal value to the step increases of the first fifteen years of their career.
You know, kinda like a group of state employees known as the Highway Patrol. Even if a person is hired as a trooper and never goes into any supervisory role during his or her career – thus staying at the HP01 pay grade for thirty years- the salary scale ranges from $37,273 to $59,277. That’s a “start to finish” difference of $22,000 compared with a teacher who has a “start to finish” difference of $17,000. If you end your career in some sort of a mid-level management position with the Highway Patrol, you can top out at $91,193, a “start to finish” difference of $54,000. And to be a highway patrolman, you do not have to spend a hundred grand on a college education because a high school diploma is all that’s required.
Or how about a Dental Laboratory Technician, another entry level state job that only requires a high school diploma. The pay scale ranges from $39,611 to $60,773. And a teacher with 30 years of experience and a college degree tops out at $52,000.
Or how about an Elevator Inspector. Once again, this person does not need to waste money on college, and they can start their career at $46,203 and end it at $70,885.
And these are state jobs just like teachers. The only difference is that a teacher is required to go to college. Imagine some of the salary schedules for state jobs that DO require a college degree.
So let’s look at what would happen to the salary of veteran teachers who were rewarded the exact same way that new teachers or elevator inspectors are rewarded. This, of course, builds upon the inflation increases and longevity bonuses shown in the tables above.
Salary Expectations if the Last 15 Years of a Teacher’s Salary Schedule had the Same Step Increases as the First Fifteen Years (Plus Inflation and Longevity)
|Years Experience||2020 Actual Salary Schedule||What Salary Should be Based on Inflation and Longevity||Step Increases Of $1,000 per Year Added This Amount to Starting Salary||New Salary With New Inflation and New Longevity and Consistent Step Increases||Amount “Lost” to Inflation, Longevity, and Step Increases Per Year|
Now for a little bit of simple math, and this will be estimated for the most part. We don’t need exact numbers to show the impact of these numbers to an individual teacher.
Based on the last table, approximately how much does a teacher lose in the last FIVE years of their career with the lost income courtesy of legislators not keeping up with inflation, taking away the longevity pay that every other state employee gets, and devaluing veteran teacher’s importance via a lack of step increases?
Based on the last table, approximately how much does a teacher lose in the last TEN years of their career?
Now, let’s wrap this up by looking at some pretty staggering numbers that MIGHT be a little overshadowed in the above numbers.
Health care costs in the US in 2008 were $2.399 TRILLION. In 2018, that number was $3.649 TRILLION. That’s an increase of 52%. If you recall, inflation over those same years was about 24%. And yes, the population has increased by 8.2% over those twelve years, but I can’t imagine that an 8% population increase would equate to a 52% increase in health care costs. Guess who those expenses trickled down to? And if your answer is insurance companies, that is not correct.
The Residential Cost Index for new home construction in 2008 was 180.4. The estimated Cost Index in January 2020 was 239.1. Don’t worry so much about what those numbers mean; look at the difference. That’s an increase of 32% on the price of a comparably-sized new house between 2008 and 2020.
Somewhat shockingly, new car prices are not as bad as what I thought when I started researching it. The EX-V6 Honda Accord, for instance, was about $31,150 in 2008 and is around $37,000 now. That’s an 18% increase. What gets us nowadays in new cars are all the extras that skyrocket that price pretty quickly. Cars can simply do more than they did twelve years ago, and since those extras cost money, that 18% is probably low for most people.
Let’s not forget, too, that the most shocking price increase of the past twelve years has been college. Since 2008, in-state tuition at public universities has increased 73%.
The bottom line in the first three examples is that the three major costs that most people accrue and spend their entire lives – housing, transportation, and health care – have ALL gone up markedly over the span of time that saw teacher salaries not come close to keeping up. And the cost just to BECOME a teacher in college has basically priced out the profession. With all we’re uncovering here, you literally can’t afford to go to college to become a teacher in 2020. Financially, it is actually a REALLY bad idea.
But let’s talk about current teachers to finish this up. Look at a teacher with ten years of experience in 2008 versus 2020. Their salary increased 14.85%. But during that same time, health care went up 52%, home prices went up 32%, and new cars went up 18%. Now think about the salary of a teacher with 25-30 years of experience. Their salary went up a minuscule .009%. How in the world can either of those people afford to live on a salary that hasn’t come close to keeping up with their most expensive budgetary items?
Perhaps a better question? I don’t know of a single teacher that did this for the money, and I’m no different. I did this to do something important with my life. But why would I keep doing it if it takes a second or third job to afford to put food on the table for the most important people in my life: my family?
And an even better question? Why should we continue in a career where the required second or third job robs us of the most important thing we have to offer our families? Our time.
Education will ALWAYS have teachers at its foundation, and it will ALWAYS have in-person instruction because it is quite simply the best way for children to learn, especially in the elementary years. Something must change drastically, or education in North Carolina is going to be so bad that every aspect of the state will start feeling the effects. And those effects – those impacts – won’t be positive.
Pay teachers a fair wage comparable to other college educated professionals on the state’s payroll, and then get the hell out of their way and let them teach. My children are worth an investment in good teachers because my children’s education is their future. This must happen, and it must happen now, because if the next twelve years look like the last twelve, education in North Carolina is going to suck.
I’m one of those good teachers that might simply decide that I can’t afford to be a teacher anymore. And that’s not right. Rather than working a second job, I deserve to be home with my kids when I’m not working at my career. Just like elevator inspectors.