Teacher Pay (Un)Fairness

USA Today reported this week on the terrible plight being faced by Buncombe County.  Here’s the problem.  Gov. McCrory recently announced a plan to raise teacher pay.  (Mean Republicans!  Oh, the horror!)  Buncombe County has about 1600 teachers in its public schools, and 95 of those are employed by the county rather than the state.  Pay raises for those 95 won’t be covered by the governor’s plan, because they’re not state employees.

But Buncombe County is all about fairness, so all of its teachers are on the same pay scale; those paid by the county are paid the same as those paid by the state.  And so, if McCrory and the legislature raise pay for teachers employed by the state, then Buncombe County’s decided they’re on the hook to raise the pay of their 95 employees, too.  And they say that will cost $475,000 a year.But wait.  Who said these teachers all had to be paid the same?  That’s a Buncombe County decision.  The county hired them and is responsible for their contracts and pay, not the state.  If the finances don’t work, Buncombe County could pay it’s employees an amount it can afford – indeed, an amount those teachers agreed to when they signed their contracts.  Totally unsolicited, a friend who works in private business and has nothing to do with politics or public policy e-mailed me about this issue earlier this morning.

I think it’s interesting that there’s all this fuss at the state level about teachers getting raises and then when they do it, people at the county level get upset because they think they now need to do the same.  How about the employer & the employee negotiate and come to an agreement about pay?  The idea that I should get a raise because someone else did is crazy.  Do these teachers think that if anyone in their class gets a good grade then everybody should?

I think she makes a fair point.  Many good teachers deserve to be paid more, but the notion that McCrory’s plan to raise teacher pay is somehow problematic because it puts an undue burden on Buncombe County or any other local government is a bit ridiculous, as is the idea that a raise for some teachers necessitates a raise for all.  Teachers don’t grade that way, and we wouldn’t want them to.  We shouldn’t expect that principle in pay, either.

Julie Tisdale / City and County Policy Analyst

Julie Tisdale is City and County Policy Analyst at the John Locke Foundation. Before coming to the Locke Foundation as the research publications coordinator, she worked at the...

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