Stemming the tide of low teacher pay in North Carolina - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Stemming the tide of low teacher pay in North Carolina

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NC Supt. Dr. June Atkinson visits Overton Elementary School on Thursday to review the schools STEM initiative. (David Whisenant/WBTV) NC Supt. Dr. June Atkinson visits Overton Elementary School on Thursday to review the schools STEM initiative. (David Whisenant/WBTV)

If you want to be a public school teacher in North Carolina, you probably aren't in it for the money. 

Right now the state ranks 46th in the country in teacher pay, and it's been years since they've seen a meaningful raise.

Just how low is teacher pay in North Carolina?

"A teacher in NC who wants to start the very first year teaching can go to Virginia and Tennessee and many other states and make at least $10,000 more," Dr. June Atkinson, the Superintendent of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. "The General Assembly makes the decision as to the salaries to our teachers and I'm optimistic that our General Assembly, as they move forward, will see how important it is for NC's economic development to raise our teacher's salaries so that we can again compete with Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, we're losing that battle now."

"I find it shocking that a teacher would have to work 15 years to get up over $40,000," said Harry Warren, a Republican representing Rowan County in the General Assembly.

Atkinson, who is a former business teacher at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, wasn't in Salisbury on Thursday just to talk about salaries. She was touring Carroll T. Overton Elementary School to learn about the STEM initiative that is taking hold across the state.

In Rowan-Salisbury Schools, STEM is taught in the schools as well as on a big green bus that travels the county.

"It has science, technology, engineering materials, and math," said Dr. Betty Tunks, the principal at Overton. "Then students get on for a field trip and use probe ware, iPads, Promethean Board and go right into their science curriculum.

Atkinson says it's the kind of learning that helps the students, and the state economy.

"We have a renewed emphasis on STEM in our state and one of the reasons we have a renewed interest in our schools is because of what we see as the trends in occupations and careers for our students," Atkinson added.

But the talk did come back to another kind of stem, that is stemming the tide of teachers leaving North Carolina for more money in surrounding states. 

State Rep. Harry Warren, R-Rowan, says the governor and others are working right now on a comprehensive overhaul of the pay scale that should make salaries more competitive.

"I believe we'll see those changes coming up in the next twelve months," Warren added. "Yesterday Governor McCrory, his education group met for two hours, their group in Raleigh, and that was one of several subjects they were looking at, compensation for teachers."

"Before the session ended this last month I had asked Representative Rick Glazier if he would be interested in working with me during the interim period in drafting some type of pay scale revision for our teachers because when you look at teacher's pay compared to the surrounding southern states, in fact if you go from West Virginia to Texas, we are in the bottom three of that grouping."

"We need to have a pay structure, a compensation plan for our teachers that will recruit good teachers, retain good teachers and reward good teachers."

Atkinson, just reelected to her third term, says she is confidant that the General Assembly will recognize the economic importance of being more competitive with teacher salaries.

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