Gains in teacher pay significant

There is a myth going around that the recent increases to teachers’ pay included in the state budget do not amount to much. But this misconception ignores the series of big picture improvements in salaries for our educators that the McCrory Administration has made in recent years.

Since 2013, North Carolina has invested more than $1 billion in new money for teacher raises, and the budget signed by Gov. Pat McCrory increases average teacher pay to more than $50,000 for the first time in the state’s history. When considering robust health and retirement benefits offered to every full-time teacher in our state, the budget will boost average total compensation to more than $67,000. When you add up the total advancements made to North Carolina’s Public Education System under Gov. McCrory, they amount to the most significant gains in the last four years of any state in the country.

Furthermore, the data from the National Education Association shows that North Carolina has moved up six spots in the rankings of average teacher salaries since the 2013-2014 school year, which is the single-biggest improvement of any state in the country. Our state has also seen the largest average gains in teacher pay in the country over that same time period, according to the data. In fact, with the signing of this new budget, teachers between 0-30 years’ experience will have received pay raises between 6.6% and 27% between 2013 and 2017—not including benefits and local supplements.

The governor and I have traveled across the state to meet with teachers and always have constructive dialogue, talking with them about how we can continue to improve the teaching profession and provide educational opportunity for all students.

More than three times as many teachers are moving to North Carolina to teach than are leaving to teach in other states. In fact, North Carolina’s teacher retention rate is better than the national average.

Also, funding for textbooks and digital resources has tripled under this administration, and we are leading the nation in school connectivity.

When the governor entered office in 2013, only 22 percent of classrooms in our state were connected to robust Wi-Fi. By leveraging investments of more than $130 million, North Carolina will now be one of the first states in the nation to connect all classrooms to Wi-Fi by 2018.

North Carolina has the highest graduation rate in state history at 85 percent, and elementary school reading scores have significantly improved due to funding for smaller class sizes and reading coaches in the early grades.

Just last week, new Wallet Hub rankings showed that North Carolina improved 18-spots in the last two years in the quality of education in all 50 states, breaking through to the top-20 best schools in the country. In 2014, Wallet Hub ranked North Carolina schools 37 out of 50 states plus the District of Columbia. But in newly released rankings for 2016, North Carolina improved to No. 19.

Our work is not complete. But it’s a great improvement from when I was a teacher under a previous administration and pay was frozen for five consecutive years.

Our plan is to continue this trend of improvement and adopt the governor’s strategic plan so that we can continue to attract, retain and reward the best teachers.

Since entering office, the governor has made improving our state’s education system one of his top priorities after years of neglect from previous administrations.

It is one of our most crucial and important endeavors to ensure the best education for our children.

Catherine Truitt is the senior education advisor to Gov. Pat McCrory.