After missing their budget deadline by nearly three full months, the North Carolina Legislature just released new salary schedules for the 2015-2016 school year. I’ve been poking through them today — you can find them posted online here — and tinkering with the numbers.
Here are some general observations:
A first year teacher with a Bachelor’s Degree will be paid $35,000 by the State of North Carolina this year*. A teacher with a Bachelor’s Degree and 25 years of experience will be paid $50,000 by the State of North Carolina this year.
Back-of-the-napkin math, then, makes one year of experience worth $600.
North Carolina provides a 10% stipend for earning a Master’s Degree and a 12% stipend for earning National Board Certification. Both programs reward teachers for investing extra time into honing their craft and developing skills that can help them to become more effective instructors. They are real opportunities for teachers to raise their own salaries.
North Carolina will pay teachers with 25 years of experience, a Master’s Degree and National Board Certification $61,000 this year.
Those numbers and a bit of back-of-the-napkin math makes one year of experience, a Master’s Degree and National Board Certification worth $1,040.
(*Note: The numbers cited here include only the portion of teacher salaries paid by the State of North Carolina. Local municipalities can — and often do — add supplements on top of that base salary. Those supplements vary greatly, however, from county to county.)
So what does this all mean? I have no real idea. Do other professionals see similar rates of salary growth over time? Is making $15,000 more per year after spending 25 years in a field reasonable — or are people with significant experience in comparable professions (nurses, managers, police officers, firefighters) making significantly more at the end of their careers than they do on day one?
One of the things that I do know is that I’ve spent my entire career in North Carolina’s classrooms — and I’ve had my Master’s Degree and National Board Certification for 20 of my 23 years. That has made it possible for me to say in the classroom — but I can’t say that I’m financially comfortable by any means.
In fact, I often wonder if I made the right choice when I decided to stay in the classroom. I see the homes that the friends that I grew up with are living in, the salaries that they are making, and the cars that they are driving and I feel cheated because their families have opportunities that I cannot provide for my own. I am — without exception — earning thousands of dollars less per year than everyone that I grew up with. I’m also the only guy still working part-time jobs to make ends meet.
But here’s the thing: None of those friends are filling the exact same role that they were filling on the first day of their careers. They started as Sales Representatives and then began climbing the corporate ladder — moving steadily into Sales Manager, Regional Manager, and Corporate Trainer roles. Or they moved from Associate to Partner positions. Or they started as beat cops before becoming Sergeants and Detectives and Chiefs.
There is no corporate ladder for teachers, and while my experience is undeniably valuable — providing me with pedagogical expertise that makes it possible to effectively respond to the thousands of different circumstances that influence learning every day — my work is fundamentally no different than it was on the first day of my career.
My friends aren’t luckier than I am — and they sure as hell don’t work harder than I do. They just pursued opportunities to advance in their professions — and each advancement came with a salary bump. There ARE NO opportunities to advance available for classroom teachers. You either teach and accept the stagnant salary growth that comes with that decision or you leave teaching.
So maybe my beef isn’t with the salary that I’m paid or the value placed on a year’s worth of experience in my state after all. Maybe my beef is with the fact that education provides no real opportunities to remain a teacher while simultaneously accepting new professional responsibilities.
It’s education’s glass ceiling all over again — and it hasn’t changed in a hundred years.
Related Radical Reads: