Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Comfort index: Another way to parse teacher pay

North Carolina's average teacher pay may be among the lowest in the nation,  but when you figure in the cost of living it rises to low average,  according to a "salary comfort index" created by the web site TeacherPortal.com.

Yesterday's post about teacher pay got a lot of discussion going. It highlighted a chart based on a National Education Association report that puts North Carolina dead last on a ranking of how inflation-adjusted teacher salaries have changed over the past decade.  Just ranking average salaries,  that study puts us at 46th.

Reader Wilton Carter Jr.,  who describes himself as a retiree and a taxpayer,  said he thinks the comfort index provides a more realistic picture of working conditions.  A teacher might make more money in another state,  he notes,  but see it eaten up by higher living costs.

TeacherPortal,  which is run by the online marketing firm QuinStreet,  rates North Carolina 35th on the comfort index,  with South Carolina 32nd.  Connecticut is rated as the most financially comfortable state for teachers,  and Hawaii the least.

The site uses the NEA data as a starting point but also uses  "job surveys and private data analyses"  to calculate average salaries,  which are weighed against cost of living.  The pay numbers are slightly different;  the NEA pegs North Carolina's average at $45,947 while TeacherPortal puts it at $46,605,  with 10 states lower.  TeacherPortal also lists starting salaries;  North Carolina is 45th at $30,779.

I don't know enough about living elsewhere to have a reading on whether the comfort index matches reality.  Northeastern states that I think of as expensive ranked better than North Carolina:  New Jersey is 15th with an average salary of  $66,612,  New York 24th at $72,208.  Even California is a couple of notches above North Carolina at 33,  with an average salary of $67,871.  The worst on the mainland were Arkansas ($46,500),  Vermont ($50,141) and New Hampshire ($52,792).

The dueling lists show what we all know:  Numbers can be sliced and diced a lot of different ways.  It's always helpful to know if the folks doing the analysis have an agenda.  NEA obviously favors higher teacher pay.  QuinStreet's purpose seems to attracting readership from current and aspiring teachers,  who may then click through to sponsoring schools of education.


Jacqui Hawkins said...

Factor in the benefits that teachers receive in other states, this state's recent stripping of public education and the demise of tenure, I think the NEA's rating is generous.

Anonymous said...

All these extremely dumb liberals and bogus teacher(s) blame conservatives for all this mess when they have barely had control for a short time for the first time in over 100 yrs?

Obama has been the worst president in history and over spent 8 trillion in only 5.5 years saying in 2008 he would cut the 10 trillion deficit by 50% and support education.

Wheres the beef? Perpetual vacationer Obama just spent 100 million to go to South Africa and on his way out wrote a 15 billion check to Africa and now on Marthas Vineyard at a cool 35 million still spends like there is no tommorrow and fails at everything he attempts.

Why hasn't Obama used some of his 8 trillion debt he ran up on waste and helped public school teachers?
He is a socialist fraud and says nothing about completely useless pro athletes making 50 million each a year while the masses pay their salaries while getting their taxes raised. He yaps all the time but says nothing and has never helped teachers once.

Anonymous said...

Teaching and teachers should be treated just like employees in the private sector....having an advanced degree doesn't get you any more money - there is no such thing as tenure.....

Anonymous said...


There they go again. The whiners crybabies out is full force again.
Take away their toys and passies and they cry cry cry ...

How long have the Republicans be in charge in Raleigh? This is hilarious.

So who created all this mess? Sure as hell wasn't the Red Party.

Give the Republicans a chance to fix this mess and don't expect a blank check. Money does not grow on trees as these freeloading whiners believe.

Why does the president get a perpetual free pass on everything?

Hint: Go to DC and protest why he has FAILED to help public education and why 8 trillion is M.I.A.
Why has he neglected teachers pay?

ps Obama the elite rich white kid has more urgent important matters on another vacation on a luxury island paradise like the one he grew up on so unfortunately he gets a rain check.
He attended private white schools all his life so what does he know or care about public schools?

Anonymous said...

Just to affirm what other said yesterday, not all schools and teachers are eligible to "shop" at Classroom Central.

From the Classroom Central web site:
"Our program: Classroom Central serves high-poverty schools in six school districts: Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Gaston, Iredell-Statesville, Union, Kannapolis & Lancaster. Teachers and other school personnel in qualifying schools “shop” for free school supplies throughout the academic year. All materials distributed are used to create inviting learning environments and to support student’s academic and personal growth."


Anonymous said...

Additionally, many of the things teachers spend money on are probably not found at Classroom Central, which has basic classroom supplies. I spent money last year on carpet ($100)and supplies for lessons that I would not have been able to find at Classroom Central.

Anonymous said...

@7:23, Folks in the private sector who have advanced degrees DO have the opportunity to earn higher salaries based on their annual performance review and other opportunities to move up in their company or changes jobs. If not, why would people be working to complete masters degrees and the Six Sigma certifications or other continuing education through community colleges?

Anonymous said...

I worked in the private sector for over ten years before becoming a teacher, and while I love my job, I would LOVE to be treated like an employee in the private sector....
an HOUR for an uninterrupted lunch, leaving work at work, working 8-5, no working vacations, not having to write detailed plans about everything I do each day and even more detailed instructions for when I am out sick.

Anonymous said...

Charlotte has to be one of the most expensive places to live in the Southeast. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to get out more.

Wiley Coyote said...


My comments yesterday about Classroom Central were directed towards the principal who claims to spend out of their pocket for school supplies for kids who can't afford them. That's why I posted it.

I know there is certain criteria for getting the benefit of free supplies, but it's the same as everything else in public education; become designated FRL and everything is free to you.

My ex-wife was a teacher and taught in some of the poorest schools in our area. As I have said here before, we spent our money on paper, pencils etc. because WE wanted to do it. There was no Classroom Central where we lived. It wasn't that much to buy a box of 100 pencils and 300 or 400 sheets of notebook paper.

You can get 144 pencils at Office Depot for less than $12.00 and 300 sheets of paper for $5.00.

The bottom line is, stop whining about spending your money. No one is requiring you to do it.

If YOU choose to do that out of the goodness of your heart, then shut up about it.

By the way. EVERY year our son was in CMS, he brought home a list of things "required" to bring to school for the classroom at the beginning of the year; paper,pencils, hand sanitizer, tissues and about 8 or 9 other things on the list, so all that added to kitty.

Wiley Coyote said...



NC has the highest gas tax of the 8 surrounding states.

Anonymous said...

What concerns me as a parent of a CMS student and resident of this ciy is that we are on our way to having the "DMV" type people as our teachers. You know the type...they are the disgruntled, unhappy, 'I don't care to help you' types bc they are getting paid peanuts. Why would anyone go to college for 4+ years to become an educator and not be compensated properly for it. As our state continues to head in this direction of not compensatiting our educators properly we will end up with "you get what you pay for" or 'what you buy cheap, you get cheap' teachers. Wake up North Carolina. These educators are what shape our children and future of our city. If they can't read/write or do math, what jobs will they have/do? What lives will they lead? We pony up now or we pay later. Get it togther NC!

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, back to reality...

While I have been disappointed with Obama, we do need to put some things into perspective for the mouth-breathers on this forum.


And to the poster who claimed an advanced degree in the business world doesn't get you more money? Maybe not in Bizarro World, where you live, but in Reality World, where the rest of us live, a private company actually will PAY FOR you to get an advanced degree (unlike educators, who foot the bill by themselves). Do you actually not believe someone with an MBA will not earn more money than someone who doesn't?

Ron White would have a field day with some of you.

Wiley Coyote said...


I know a man who is an engineer but doesn't have a clue as to how to put paper in a personal printer.

I know people with no college degree making very good money, some six figures.

I know people who have kids that graduated but can't find a job moving back home.

I know that having a college degree or advanced degree doesn't necessarily mean squat.

That is also reality...

Aubrey Moore said...

Wow , Wiley, don't ever take a logic course, you will really mess up a good thing you have going.

A teacher who wants to stay in the classroom has one way to effect change in her or his own salary, higher degrees. Please do not compare that to the marketplace, you just make yourself sound stupid.

I have two sons teaching, both with master degrees, one in NC for 10 years, one in Penn for 3 years. The one in Penn makes $10,000 more than the one in NC and the area around WilksBarre is not nearly expensive as our Triangle area.

Ann Doss Helms said...

9:30 a.m., that occurred to me, too: Cost of living may vary as much by urban/rural as by state/region.

Wiley Coyote said...


Perhaps you shouldn't take any reading comprehension courses.

An alternate reality might jump up and bite your nose.

Follow the thread. You completely missed the point.

Anonymous said...

9:44 I am a CMS teacher. While I am very upset and outraged about the actions of our governor and General ASSembly, I will in no uncertain terms give anything less than my best each day. I can also assure you that all of my colleagues feel the same. I have no intention of taking this out on the children who have been entrusted to me. It isn't their fault.

Anonymous said...

Pay teachers and bring back their BENEFITS!


Anonymous said...

As another CMS teacher, I agree with anon 11:32. I couldn't "half-ass" it if I tried. I'm a NBCT with a master's degree. I fall asleep at night and shower in the morning thinking of ways to teach a lesson better, reach a student more effectively (too personal? I apologize). I'd have to rewire my brain to give anything but what I give. But, I am not going to do anything extra just because "maybe it'll get me in that top 25%." I'll do it if it seems like the right thing to do, but the promise of $300 (after taxes) is no motivator whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

I am a younger teacher who is now trying to leave the school system. I fear a lot of my colleagues may do the same. My plan is to pursue my Principal Licensure but, others will leave for private sectors. With young teachers leaving what happens to the future of the school system? How can you persuade new educators to teach in NC with these laws in place?

Anonymous said...

Where were all the protesters when the Dems were running up the billions of dollars of debt that jeopardized all future incomes in the state. To protest the group that is finally addressing the problems smacks of prejudice to me. Are all the things they have done perfect? Of course not, but remember the sorry state of affairs the last 2governors have created.

kas said...

It appears to me that the "Comfort Index" confirms what the other indices have shown - that NC has the lowest increase (12%) in teacher pay over the last 10 years of any state. I didn't see any information claiming it took into account cost of living or inflation.

Perhaps the name "Comfort Index" is misleading. I take no comfort in seeing NC teacher salaries dropping from slightly above the national average to the bottom quintile is 5 years.

Anonymous said...

Prediction: 2014 Gov. McCrory will be dealing with an overwhelming Democratic Senate and House and Thom Tillis and Phil Berger will have to work honest jobs once again.

Anonymous said...

A warning to all teachers and potential teachers, stay away from North Carolina. It has a history of hating public education and things will not improve in the near future. The Republicans have set this state up to follow Wisconsin and Florida because they have no original ideas of their own. North Carolina "TO SEEM, RATHER THAN TO BE!"

Anonymous said...

Why would a teacher voluntarily give up career status for $500/yr? How stupid are our legislators?

Anonymous said...

2:46, most likely won't, but it all becomes moot in four years because career status will not exist for ANY teacher, whether he or she has it now or not.

Anonymous said...

The only thing "Career Status" provides a teacher is due process if they are going to be removed.


Can you find any results that show how many teachers were able to retain their jobs after a due process meeting? I will speculate that their are very few. If administrators want to get rid of a teacher, they and CMS will find a way.


Anonymous said...

Way less than 1% of teachers were dismissed last year. What other professions can say that?

I have no problem with paying more in taxes to keep good teachers in the profession. But first, fire more of the bad ones, get rid of tenure and institute merit pay for all teachers. Don't wait until 2018, do it now.

Anonymous said...

I like Many of the teachers who have posted could not fathom giving anything less than 110% to the children entrusted to my care. I have worked at schools that have piloted many of the pay for performance initiatives including student learning objectives (slo's), retention bonuses awarded through project lift and have been identified as a irreplaceable teacher by both my principal and area superintendent. I don't say that to boast I say that to say this... I have been a recipient of a lot of the pay for performance initiatives and over the last 5 years my husband and I have still had to make some critical financial choices. We are both educators and a 5 year salary freeze to us both has really turned into a pay decrease as our family has grown. Even after receiving the pay for performance bonuses it still resulted in having to choose between a vacation to visit family or the ability to pay for a slightly nicer daycare for my own children. I know we all have hard financial decisions but being labeled as middle class doesn't seem so middle when I am choosing between these two things. I learned a lot from my masters degree program but will be honest in saying, the slight 300.00 a month extra after taxes each month is what made the difference in affording the daycare of our second child. I gave my all before my masters, and I continue to do so because I am an educator.

Anonymous said...

I am outraged by so many of these comments. Teachers educate your children. I tell my students all the time that I expect them to make more money than me someday, but goodness. I know teachers on welfare because they can not make it other wise. Also, someone commented earlier that teacher's don't have to buy classroom supplies, and that there are required lists of supplies. This is all true. However, less than half of my 78 students last year had anything on that list. Am I supposed to just let them sit there in class without a pencil or paper? What do you suggest because I have not found a good solution?

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:43 p.m. "Cite your sources Moron!' You represent the rest of the tea party when you make up your own statistics citing that less than 1 percent of teachers were released for lack of performance. Show me the study or go back to making backwards laws for a backwards state.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the facts were correct.

As to the request for a previous blogger to provide sources, that person is actually high when suspensions come from the state level.

Since 1967, yes 1967, there have been about 430 licenses suspended or revoked. If that happened in only one year it would be a half a percent. But it is for over 40 years. That's .01 percent.

Here's the site:

What is interesting is that names are named with reasons that range from murder to "Other-playing strip poker with female students."

Anonymous said...

I am a sixth year teacher... which means that I am still making the same pay I would make if I were a first year teacher. To those who tell those such as myself to leave if we don't like it: We will. We already are. And it will be a tremendous problem for this state very soon. It is not as if North Carolina produces enough teacher graduates on its own; a quick poll of your child's school will show you the extreme extent to which NC schools are staffed by those from outside the state. What happens when they stop coming? What happens when those who are already here and can leave do leave? What happens when the students of this state internalize that teaching is a dead-end financially, and therefore, do not pursue it? How will you staff the schools?

Let's get specific. Why would any promising high school science student pursue a science education career? They could certainly do better in the private sector. If they then choose the latter path, who will be there to teach the next generation science?

Anonymous said...

My Administrator told me

"Make it work or move on!"

Teachers have very little options. An organized sick day or strike is the only way CMS and DPI will hear our voices.

Anonymous said...


If Obama has bankrupted America where is the spending on education and teachers pay? So far ZERO spent?

Obama campaigned in 2008 and 2012 as the "education" president then why has he sent ZERO for public teachers salaries especially those at the low end after now going on 6 year freeze?

Why do Raleigh teachers pay protesters give their hero messiah a free pass?

With 8 trillion over spending in only 4.5 years Obama could not find a few billion to for underpaid public school teachers? Stop giving this incompetent liar a free pass. He lives like a king and has doubled up on spending for himself and his pet projects but nothing for teachers.

Even before 2008 teachers were at the bottom especially those with 10 yrs or less. They are still in the spot even with the freeze 6 yrs ago.






Anonymous said...

Teaching in public schools is nothing like working in the private sector.

Anonymous said...

You are being EXTREMELY naive.

Anonymous said...