Dispelling education lies

By Thom Goolsby

August 29, 2013

Last week, this column broke the fact that North Carolina ranks at the top (number 11) in state-level spending on education. Although the Tar Heel State ranks 45th on overall spending on education, it has nothing to do with any policy promulgated by the General Assembly.

In high spending states, city and county governments make up the difference. Apparently, our municipal governments see no need to pitch in money for education to the extent of cities and counties in other states. Regardless of this truth, the liberal North Carolina Association of Educators (de facto teachers union) and its minions in the press continue to wrongfully attack GOP state leaders.

This week, let’s look at another dishonest criticism posed by leftist education leaders: Why won’t the General Assembly give teachers a pay raise? What’s dishonest about this question and the criticisms it raises? First, the actual pay rate of teachers is determined at the local level. All the Legislature does is set the base pay for public school teachers in North Carolina.

Local governments can always decide to pay their teachers more money. However, city and county officials always seem to have higher priorities than teacher pay. Maybe it’s a park, a new government building, hiring lobbyists for City or County Hall, a beautification program, consultants — you get the picture.

Local governments could help more, as they do in other states, but they do not do so in North Carolina. They escape accountability with the help of a compliant media. Instead, they blame “Raleigh.”

Here’s another fact — Republicans gave all state employees, including teachers, a small bump in their base pay of 1.2 percent last year. Democrats had provided no raises for the three prior years, before they lost control of the General Assembly in 2011. Just another little factoid you will never see in the liberal press!

It is also worth noting that when Republicans took control of the General Assembly in 2011 (the first time in 140 years), the state health care and retirement plans were in a shambles. The GOP moved quickly to do what the Democrats had been incapable of doing — Republicans protected state employees by restructuring and properly funding both programs, taking them out of the red and into the black.

With all this talk about money, what do teachers actually get paid? According to the NCAE, the average annual salary of a North Carolina teacher is $45,947.00. However, this figure is misleading. It does not include health and pension benefits (yes, unlike almost everyone reading this article, teachers actually have a guaranteed retirement pension). The average teacher receives $4,931.00 in health insurance benefits and $5,383.00 in state pension benefits, along with $3,139.00 in Social Security contributions.

So what is the real total annual compensation for a teacher who works an average of 10 months out of the year? Just under $60,000. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, North Carolina teachers make almost twice the weekly wage of the average citizen.

Bottom line: do our really good teachers deserve more pay? Absolutely! That’s one reason why the General Assembly replaced the outdated tenure system with a contract system based on job performance. It rewards the best teachers through a merit pay system. Republicans funded this reward program for high-performing teachers with $10.2 million for bonus pay. Believe it or not, the NCAE opposed this reform!

Will we ever get the truth from the mainstream media when it comes to education? Sadly, the answer appears, “No.” It’s easier to ignore the facts, listen to the liberal teachers union and blame “Raleigh.” All the while, municipal governments are allowed to join the chorus and shirk any responsibility to increase funding for education. At least you now know the facts!

Thom Goolsby is a state senator, practicing attorney and law professor. He is a chairman of the Senate Judiciary 1 and Justice and Public Safety Committees.