Damn! The Average Teacher Compensation In NC Is $79,996? But Maybe Consider…


Last summer BEST NC published its annual report called Facts & Figures: Education in North Carolina.

BESTNC stands for Business for Educational Success and Transformation North Carolina. Their legal name is North Carolina Business Leaders for Education. They tout a very impressive list of business leaders among their ranks, but their name is in direct contradiction to what they have practiced in helping shape policy like the principal pay plan and the current draft of the licensure/compensation proposal in PEPSC.

On page 27 of that report is this table:

Looks like we teachers make a lot of money benefits are considered.

And they are not wrong with these figures if you look at them the way they want you to.

The following explanation of the added benefits comes from Marge Foreman at NCAE (North Carolina Association of Educators) who was consulted to help explain these benefits:

“This year the employer contributes a total retirement contribution rate of 22.89% of each employee’s total pre-taxed salary. In 2022-2023, the total employer retirement contribution rate climbs to 24.19%. The contributions are broken down into four distinct funding categories:

Retirement — is the fund used to pay the employer’s pension upon retirement.

Disability Fund – is the disability trust fund that pays an employee who becomes disabled from the job they were hired to perform. It’s a work requirement test, which is different from Social Security Disability, which means you cannot work on any job. The income received is a certain percent of total salary, based on whether the disability is short term (50%, if temporary), or long term (65%, if permanent).

Death – is the State’s death benefit trust fund, which pays a death benefit to an employee’s beneficiary, if an employee dies in active service, or if a retiree dies within 180 days of their effective retirement date. The amount of the death benefit is the employee’s current annual salary, no less than $25,000, if an employee’s salary is less than $25,000; and no more than $50,000, if the employee’s salary is greater than $50,000.

Retiree Health – is the health trust fund, which pays health insurance premiums required to be paid by the employer for all eligible retirees, upon retirement. Note: There are different eligibility requirements employees must meet to qualify for health insurance coverage upon retirement. The rules to receive retiree health coverage changed in 2006 and again in 2021. In 2006 you had to be employed on or before October 1, 2006, to be eligible for coverage upon retirement eligibility. On January 1, 2021, new hires on and after that date, no longer receive any health coverage upon retirement. Note: They do have health insurance coverage during active employment.

Total Contribution Rate – is the total of all funding categories employers are required to pay monthly for each employee. Note: The General Assembly funds all employer’s contributions needed for all state funded employees, both public and state government.”

Yes, that’s sounds like a lot.

But consider these insights:

  1. Most teachers will never see income from the Disability Fund. It’s there, yes. But is it used? Not often at all. In fact, in my 25 years of teaching, I cannot name a teacher who has received money from this. That does not mean it has not happened with a coworker of mine. But, it has never come up in conversation. Many teachers like myself pay for disability coverage on their own.
  2. To get the death benefit, well….
  3. Retiree health benefits are no longer given to new teachers as of 2021. AND…
  4. This assumes that teachers will retire with full pension in North Carolina. We are seeing more and more teachers switch careers before retirement because of the pay and benefits.

Now go back to the BEST NC graphic.

Not all employees accept the State Health Plan coverage. Many teachers are on plans that are provided by a spouse’s workplace because many teachers are not the only breadwinners in a family. And the local supplement is not the same for all teachers. In fact, there are LEA’s that cannot even offer a local supplement.

The “added costs” of benefits is also an argument that the people at the John Locke Foundation like to trumpet. As long time adversaries of the public education system in NC and especially NCAE, they frequently argue that if teachers want more income, then they should cut out some of the benefits.

From May 5th, 2022 on the website for the John Locke Foundation:

See this part? “Adding together salary and benefits means the average teacher compensation package approaches eighty thousand dollars ($79,996).”

See that last line? “Want to improve teacher salaries? Reign in the escalating cost of benefits.”

Ironically, that article and the BEST NC graphic are supposed to make us teachers feel ashamed for fighting for higher salaries, but take a look at the following graphic that came from the Fiscal Research Division of the NC General Assembly.

It is from a presentation by the House Select Committee on an Education System in North Carolina on May 9th, 2022. That committee is meeting to redefine education in NC. All of their graphics are in the public domain.

Tells a different story.

Because there is no retiree medical for new teachers, there is no “green” in the graphic for NC. And looking at how the “blue” and “brown” compare to our neighboring states, NC is looking pretty bad.

Oh, and look at Mississippi and Arkansas and what they just did with their teacher pay.


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