State’s Teacher Pay Study Should Go Back to School

Today’s article on the state of NC teacher pay underscores why state policy analysis is not credible when it is coming out of 1) the state itself, or 2) a newspaper reporter with (best case) no idea how completely ignorant the analysis really is.

Here’s why this practice is deceptive, or at least grossly wrong:
While it’s perfctly possible to take the number of dollars different states are paying their teachers and place them in rank order, the exercise yeilds no meaningful information. It’s not the number of dollars paid, but the standard of living, or purchasing power of the dollars, that matters.

Don’t we know that purchasing power differes from state to state, in large part because various costs of living are significantly different from one state to another? Yes, we do–that’s why many of us Yankees relocated here, and we appreciate that lower cost of living, thank you very much.

For several years the Locke Foundation ranked teacher pay by adjusting for interstate cost of living differentials, using an AFT index. North Carolina, as I recall, hovered around 12th or 13th consistently in interstate COLA-adjusted teacher pay on that scale. That study does not appear to be in the online archives, unfortunately. I doubt that new rankings, similarly adjusted, will reveal great differences. We have never been and are not now in the 38th position, as the reporter’s article indicates. Pushing the number of dollars NC teachers receive up to the nominal national average is a wasteful and stupid idea; evidence is that if higher than average pay was going to work, it should have worked already. I hate to think it’s the fact that our teachers are so poorly trained in NC education schools that they cannot understand the difference between a nominal value (the number of dollars in their paycheck) and how far that goes when making purchases. The idea that an individual living and teaching in Cary–a relatively high-priced community?needs to earn as much as a teacher living on Long Island?with lots of high-priced communities?is absurd.

I do agree with the following quote from today’s article?

“Our teachers must be compensated at a level that more appropriately reflects the importance of their role in our state’s education system, but more importantly in the lives of our children,” Black said, “and the legislature remains committed to achieving this goal.”

I agree. Let’s see what they would be paid if they went out into the market and sold their services based on the achievements of the children they have taught. Some would definitely sink, while others would swim just fine.

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