A state that was once a leader in education is now falling by the wayside. North Carolina is one of the worst states in the country when it comes to public education, and state lawmakers have made no considerable progress in changing that reputation.
In a report published by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the average yearly salary for teachers across the United States for the 2012-2013 school year was $55,418. The same year, North Carolina teachers averaged just $45,938, earning the state a rank of 46 out of 50.
Eric Whiteside, a longtime teacher in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system, was one of hundreds of teachers at a Moral Monday protest in Charlotte’s Marshall Park this past August. In a video that gained popularity in the area, Whiteside admitted that “Teachers don’t go into teaching for the money… but you’ve got to pay them a living wage.”
A National Education Association survey estimates North Carolina will spend $8,433 per student in the 2013 school year. Only three states, Texas, Utah, and Arizona, are estimated to spend less per student.
Education was a key issue in Governor Pat McCrory’s 2012 campaign. On his website, McCrory features a quote saying “We cannot achieve excellence by simply spending more money on a broken system; we must make major reforms.”
Since McCrory took office with a Republican-controlled General Assembly, funding for public education has taken a big hit. The UNC system lost $414 million in funding in 2011, the year before McCrory took office. McCrory responded by cutting $66 million from the system in 2013. A new budget lasting for the next two years introduced by McCrory and the General Assembly will cut over $500 million from public education across the state.
This budget will cut textbook funding in public schools by $77.4 million. Also taking a hit are classroom supply funding ($45.7 million), and ESL funding ($6 million). The budget will also completely defund the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program (again).
The “Opportunity Scholarship Act,” a NC House Bill that never reached the floor for debate would have cut an additional $90 million from public education funds. The bill would have provided vouchers for low-income students to attend private schools in North Carolina.
Much work still needs to be done for public education in North Carolina, because as Whiteside said, “We haven’t had what anyone in their right mind would call a real pay raise since 2008.”