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May 31, 2009


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Now, now, Ed. Your attack on Davenport, who supports his argument about teacher pay quite well and does not commit all the acts in his article that you attribute to him, is not quite the "common ground you were seeking in last week's column".

I suspect that's because a) you don't agree with his ideology, and b) you don't care for Davenport and you never have.

Maybe instead of yet another quasi-personal attack on Davenport coming from you, you should respond to the merits of his arguments. That would certainly go a long way towards finding that "common ground" and ending the "team play" that you ask of others but have demonstrated on several occasions since publishing that article that you are unwilling to seek and abide by yourself.

J. Neas

Here we go then, Spag.

"North Carolina's adjusted average teacher compensation is $59,252..." Good to play with numbers by including mandatory pension payments into this. Taking that out, no teacher with only a bachelors makes that amount of money in Guilford County, and it takes a teacher with a masters degree 26 years of experience to make that much. "Average" salary indeed. ( and With the large number of new teachers in the system, the average is probably somewhat closer to what I make as a teacher with 5 years experience: $39,180.

"The average American, we learn, works 47 weeks per year, as compared to 38 weeks for teachers. Most of us, in other words, work about 25 percent more than teachers." It is true that teachers are employed 10 months a year rather than 12, but if Davenport's numbers also assume teachers work 40 hours a week, that's a shell game with numbers as well. At my school, I am on the clock from 8 AM to 4 PM with, technically, a half hour lunch. That lunch is not 'protected' however, as I am required every third week to spend that half hour on lunch duty. Then take into account the amount of time outside of school (despite lesson planning time built into the day) spent grading papers, designing lesson plans, participating in mandatory faculty meetings, mandatory department meetings, mandatory 'professional learning' workshops every other week, and so on, and your average number of hours per week steadily grows closer to 50, if not more. Over the course of 10 months, this puts us more on the average of 47.5 weeks worth of work per year, if a week is defined as '40 hours.' Is it any wonder I look forward to my unpaid summer vacation every year?

All of Davenport's attempts to downplay teacher workload or to make teacher compensation look higher than it is are silly.

Ed Cone

J., thnx for the breakdown of the data. I thought his denigration of teacher skills and abilities was just odd -- as a parent, I have great respect for the folks who know how to impart information to kids. I don't know that I could do it.


Ed, where can I find some timberland boots?


First, I thought Davenport WAS a teacher. No?

Second, that summer "vacation" thing is a hoot and a really old argument that still doesn't work. Teachers are required to take courses to maintain certification (and pay for it). Summer is often the only time they can do that. Most teachers (especially those who support their families in entirety) have summer jobs because they need the money.

I was surprised with Mr. Davenport's column - teachers are underpaid for the work they do (if we really valued what they did, we'd pay a lot more).



Why would you not include the pension in total compensation? In the private sector the max a 401k employee can put away is $15k of their money so the most any employer would provide is $15k if they matched 100%, most of them don't, I think the average is probably around 4% of gross pay so a private sector employee making your salary of $39k would receive a retirement benefit of around $1,560 per year. Your union has tried to brainwash the public into believing that pensions are not compensation. As to your 50 hour workweek, what white collar job in NC making $39k salary doesn't work 50 hours or more, and they are getting 2-4 weeks of vacation&sick pay per year not the 13 weeks a teacher in NC gets.

So with your compensation, pension benefit, and ignoring your insurance (which all North Carolinian's pay for but which is better than 80% of us have at our jobs) in the private sector someone would need to make about $67,000 per year to match YOUR $39k salary.

I am not saying that teachers should stop complaining, its your right to do so, I just take issue with this pervasive mentality that teachers are so poorly paid. You have better job security, even in this economy, than any of us who actually pay your salary, better benefits than most of us, and very little accountability on an individual basis due to the protection of your union bosses. If anything I would argue that the most unfortunate thing about teacher salaries is that experience is the main factor in increasing pay. I have been both a student and a parent of a student in NC schools and have had many teachers at the upper end of the experience bracket that would have been fired in any private sector company, I have also seen junior teachers who really connect with the kids and improve them both as students and citizens who must suffer the financial pressure that the low starting salaries cause. If pay were more directly tied to individual performance you would be able to weed out the bad apples early in their careers while improving the quality of education, which I believe would improve the chances that taxpayers would support the tax increases necessary to raise salaries further.

My advice to teachers, kick out the union and operate in the real world (a meritocracy) or keep protecting the losers in your field and suffer the effects of collective bargaining (socialism). And bitching about a 1/2 percent pay cut looks petty at best especially in light of the current economy.

Ed Cone

Sue: No, not a teacher.

Kim: TypePad's spam filter is not having a very good night, huh?

J. Neas


1) Pensions are compensation, but when we're discussing what it takes to live NOW and not, in my case, 25 years from now, the pension is a little less relevant. Also, I'm not a member of a union. That is illegal in this state.

2) My unpaid summer 'vacation' is hardly comparable to vacation and sick days. I receive one sick day per month for a total of 10 per year. I also receive .2 'personal days' per month for a total of 2 per year. Those 'personal days' are hardly worth taking as they require a) prior permission from our employer to use and b) we have to pay for the substitute who is there in our stead. These days do roll over which is a perk a lot of people don't have, but to compare an employee's sick and vacation days to my summer is laughable at best seeing as they are paid for those days and I am not.

3) As for job security, tell that to my tenured, experienced friends whose jobs were eliminated last month. At this juncture, education is hardly some sort of safe haven of job security.

4) I won't disagree with you on the meritocracy argument necessarily, but find me an effective way to measure learning - because testing is a tenuous one at best - and then we'll start having a discussion about how to implement this into teacher salary.

Fred Gregory

I have a teacher friend in the GCSS.. Obama voter. Thinks the protest is a bunch of BS. Her mother was a teacher during the GD and continued working for an extended period of time without pay. She says pass the Kleennex.

Sure Davenport's hate mail has quadrupled since this column.

Terry Stoops

Remember that the purpose of my teacher pay study was to compare North Carolina teacher compensation to other states. Adjustments to the nominal salary are necessary because of differences in cost of living, experience, and pension contribution across states. I make it pretty clear in several places in the study that I am talking about adjusted, not nominal, salaries.

I should also add that another purpose of my study is to respond to the oft-quoted National Education Association study that says North Carolina teacher pay ranks X in the nation. The NEA study does not even adjust for cost of living. So, their ranking favors states with high costs of living (New Jersey, California, Connecticut, etc.).

What's cool about my latest teacher pay study is that it uses DPI figures to rank NC school systems according to average pay with all benefits included. At a total compensation package of $53,530 ($40,239 of which is salary), Guilford County is below the state average and state median. Some of this may be a function of a teacher workforce with less experience than the state average teacher, which large and expanding school systems often have. Unfortunately, teacher experience data for NC school systems is not (to my knowledge) available.

Teacher pay is not a question of how much we value (or should value) teachers. It centers on economic factors like supply and demand and taxation, as well as attitudinal factors like our government's priorities and our basic assumptions about education. For example, compared to other nations, we pour quite a bit of money into educational and social programs, student support services, administration, school buildings, school-sponsored athletics, etc.

Terry Stoops
John Locke Foundation

Teacher pay is not a question of how much we value (or should value) teachers.

And here I thought "pay" was the great arbiter of value for services rendered.

North Carolina is ranked only 14th in teacher pay? That means there are thirteen states who value their teachers more than we do. I'd like to see us ranked number one. Unless of course one thinks of teachers as commodities like corn syrup and pork bellies, in which case, let's go for the bottom of the barrel.



Some well-reasoned commentary about this latest report from The Show.


Comment redacted; off-topic ad hominem.

Commenter suspended for repeated instances of similar behavior.

Terry Stoops

"And here I thought "pay" was the great arbiter of value for services rendered."

Professional athletes receive huge salaries for services that have a relatively low societal value. This seems to suggest that a number of factors that weigh in on compensation.

As much as I am happy to see a comment by Protzman, I think Sprag's comment is apropos. I posted a comment to clarify a point made in Davenport's column, not necessarily to defend it. That's Davenport's job.


My mother was a teacher... Sadly, in our society, teachers are not valued as highly as they should be. And neither are the rest of us.

When Humanity finally realizes that the betterment of Humanity and profits are not synonymous things might change for the better but I'm not holding my breath.

Lately I've noticed several teachers are selling me scrap metals and aluminum cans to supplement the cost of classroom supplies. Smart people don't let pride stand in their way-- someday I'll become smart.

By the way, we're open Saturday mornings.


As a college level teacher who has worked in other fields, including business, I would remark that teaching is not like other jobs. Even at its most low key, teaching is a kind of performance that is energy-sapping. It is very hard to sum up the effort in number of hours worked. I find my job quite rewarding, but it is neither easy, nor lucrative.

Steve Harrison

"Remember that the purpose of my teacher pay study was to compare North Carolina teacher compensation to other states."

No, the purpose of your study was to introduce unrealistic factors to arrive at a seemingly realistic conclusion, an approach the John Locke Foundation and Civitas have perfected into an art form.

"Adjustments to the nominal salary are necessary because of differences in cost of living, experience, and pension contribution across states."

Okay, let's look at those three things. As much as it pains me, I read a lot of opinions and studies coming out of JLF. To summarize, local and state taxes are a monstrous burden on people and small business, and have pushed both to the brink of insolvency. But for the purposes of this teacher pay study, all that must be set aside for the moment, so you can claim the cost of living here in North Carolina is so fantastically low that teachers have much more "buying power" here with their smaller salary. So we need to add a few thousand fantasy doillars to their income. We'll get back to the "barely surviving" North Carolinians later, when it suits the purposes of a different agenda.

When looking at the years of experience, you casually overlook the most important aspect of that: poor teacher retention in North Carolina, compared to other states. Instead, you artificially extend their careers, basically saying, "If you stuck around longer, you'd be making X dollars." So then you add those fantasy annual pay increases to their fantasy compensation package.

Pension contribution levels give us an even more bleak assessment of how our teachers fare as compared to other states. What is it? Less than 4%, compared to an average that's over double that? Terry, that represents a combination of two things: the real or perceived weak economic position that keeps teachers from stashing money for the future, and the understanding that their career in teaching is temporary in nature and won't/can't carry them through to retirement. That's bad. Real bad.

But instead of acknowledging this, you (once again) forge into fantasyland: "If you contributed as much as your counterparts in other states, your benefits would be X dollars." And their fantasy compensation package grows again.

You know, this sort of reminds me of a dinner conversation I had with my wife back when I was in the Army. We were eating some sort of hamburger concoction along with some rice and beans while sitting in our mobile home that we could barely afford, and I showed her a letter from the Department of the Army that explained how I was really making $45,000 a year instead of the $12,000 or so I actually got paid (before taxes). Her response was something along the lines of, "Don't you ever, ever bring one of these letters home again."

Terry Stoops

In their annual teacher pay study, the National Education Association said, "Further, any discussion of average salary figures in the absence of other data about the specific state or district provides limited insights into the actual “value” of those salaries. For example, variations in the cost of living may go a long way toward explaining (and, in practice, offsetting) differences in salary levels from one area of the country to another."

So, when I do what the NEA suggests, namely use "data about the specific state" to get at "the actual 'value' of those salaries," that means that I am using unrealistic factors to reach an unrealistic conclusion? Or do you believe that labor economists at the NEA are also in fantasyland?

I suppose you would argue that I am just using the wrong factors. The NEA cites cost of living as a valid factor, so I guess that one is OK (unless you want to accuse the NEA of not caring about "barely surviving" North Carolinians). Perhaps you have a beef with the ACCRA data?

Anyway, I adjust for years of experience because, if you are familiar with state salary schedules, teachers are basically paid according to years of experience. As I mention in the report, "Teachers are paid on a scale that increases their salary for each additional year of employment. States with a more experienced teacher workforce will post a higher average salary, which will skew the comparison with states that have less-experienced teachers."

By the way, teacher turnover in North Carolina is lower than the national average (The national teacher turnover rate is 16.8%, compared to 13.85% in NC). Most of what the state considers "turnover" consists of retirements and teachers transferring to other schools. A great deal of the turnover is beyond the control of the state, e.g., family relocation.

Your arguments about pension contribution have some validity. In my analysis, it hurts North Carolina's ranking to have such a relatively low pension contribution. But if were engaged in tomfoolery, why would I include it? More fantasy? Regardless, the psychological explanations are endless!

I appreciate your comments, Steve, although I am a bit disappointed that the discussion veered away from Davenport's article.

Tony Wilkins

Spag: Commenter suspended for repeated instances of similar behavior.

Boo. Hiss. Enjoy:

Steve Harrison

My comment about the cost of living metric was more of a poke at other JLF studies than it was this one, Terry. And it's definitely not the first time conflicting conclusions made their way into the JLF/Civitas policy menu.

When you guys push charter schools, reductions in class size is a valuable asset:

"North Carolina’s charter schools have low average school and class sizes, innovative curricula and instructional approaches, few disciplinary problems, and student performance comparable to district schools. These factors combine to create a learning environment valued by parents and children alike. In particular, minority parents throughout North Carolina have embraced charter schools to take advantage of the schools’ superior learning environments. In fact, a higher percentage of African-American students attend the state’s charter schools (34.6 percent) than district schools (31.4 percent).

According to survey research, parents who choose charter schools say that school size and class size are the most attractive quality of charter schools, especially when compared to the district school assigned to their child. The parents’ perception about charter school size and class size is consistent with state data, which shows that charter schools typically have smaller schools and classes than comparable district schools. The median charter school has 243 fewer students than district schools with similar grade ranges. Charter schools have identical average class sizes as district schools in grades 1-3, but lower average class sizes in kindergarten and grades 4-8."

But when it comes time to discuss the public schools budget, all of a sudden class size means absolutely nothing:

"Myth Number 2: Smaller Classes Improve Student Achievement.

* North Carolina has spent millions to reduce class size in elementary school grades. The payoff is not noticeable in test scores.
* Research results suggest the benefits accrue primarily to disadvantaged students and are not widely distributed to students across population groups.
* Why do many countries (e.g. Japan, Finland, and Singapore) with much larger elementary school classes consistently outscore United States students on international tests where smaller classes are the norm?
* Findings from the Tennessee Project STAR – a study whose results were used to justify billions in federal spending for class size reduction – revealed that when children in the same small classes are taught by ineffective teachers, the impact of smaller class size was negligible."

So yeah, I'm a little leery of the conclusions you guys come up with. Too often, you overlook valuable and pertinent data you uncover in your research, and then run off on an agenda-driven tangent. Possibly even more frustrating (to me, anyway) is the fact that most of you folks are very sharp, and could/should be coming up with better conclusions and solutions, which we desperately need these days.

Dave Ribar


It appears that nearly all of the "good showing" for North Carolina teachers in the JLF report comes from the experience adjustment.

The report's overall adjustment increases NC salaries by 21% ($59K vs. $49K). The pension adjustment should reduce NC salaries relative to others, and the ACCRA price adjustment is miniscule (.963 vs. 1 on average). So, nearly all of the adjustment is coming from the report's treatment of experience.

The NCES in its annual Digest of Educational Statistics (Tables 76 & 77) gives estimated base salaries by education and by experience. The last figures are for 2003-4. However, those figures show NC teachers' salaries, conditional on these attributes, being far BELOW the average.

Can you explain why the NCES adjustments preserve the differences in salaries while the JLF adjustments lead to NC salaries being substantially higher than average?

Brian M.

Steve, I think it would've been helpful for you to point out that two different individuals wrote the pieces you linked to above. With different authors, I think that your point about consistency is weakened (I doubt the groups share an editor).

The only part of the JLF report than seems to conflict with the data I have been exposed to concerning the relationship between class sizes and educational achievement is the statement that, minority parents are excited about the "superior educational environments" in charter schools. Perhaps this should have been rephrased to reflect a statement concerning the stated preferences of parents, unless there is charter school data cited in that report that indicates the superiority of those institutions to public schools.

"Discuss[ing] the public schools budget" is about determining the most cost-effective government educational expenditures according to the achievement goals set by federal and local policymakers (there is not a statistically significant relationship between smaller classes and improved test scores).

davenport jr

I find it peculiar that Ed, who does a little writing himself, is bothered by "think-tank quoting." I take pride in the fact that I conduct research before I write anything. (BTW, I appreciate the input from Mr. Stoops.)

Ed also is troubled by what he calls my "union-bashing" and "trashing of teachers," but unions and teacher qualifications are legitimate matters to discuss, aren't they? (Yes, I am aware that, in the most technical sense, there are no teachers unions in NC.) Facts are stubborn things, and here is one that bothers public education's apologists: The academic ability of educators is far lower than that of individuals who choose to go into virtually every other "professional" field.

Charles Davenport Jr.

Ed Cone

Charles, thanks for stopping by.

My thought is that you got further and further from your interesting (to me, at least) opening argument about teacher pay, moving instead to something that seemed (to me, at least) like plain old teacher bashing.

I don't know that I'm an "apologist" for anything here, but I do think teaching is a tougher job than you make it out to be, and deserving of more respect than you accord it.


Charles, you said it is a fact that the "academic ability of educators is far lower than that of individuals who choose to go into virtually every other "professional" field."

Point us the empirical source for that fact. Mmmkay?

Seymour Hardy Floyd

Do you mean the academic ability or academic achievement of educators is far lower? (I'm not even sure if that distinction matters, but I am curious.) Is this measured by level of education earned? Or by test results?

Even if that fact is indeed a fact, it still amounts to a generalization about an entire group of people. We still haven't learned how silly generalizing about entire groups of people can make us appear, even sometimes when backed up by data. (This isn't limited to racial or gender-based generalizing; the same goes on daily as individuals generalize about conservatives and liberals, as some readers here will surely appreciate.)

And even if the fact is true, is it understood that some individuals with superior (perhaps the greatest) academic ability would fail miserably if ever given the responsibility of teaching others? It's one thing to have all the knowledge and the understanding imaginable, but it's completely something different to be able to transmit that knowledge and understanding in a way that someone else can learn it too.

Is it also understand that teaching involves more than just possessing a certain level of knowledge (though that is certainly a part of the equation)?

Along with the research Davenport did, might greater research have involved actually finding out all that educators do and face?

I agree with Davenport that doctors and lawyers have earned an education that I have not, and I don't pretend to think that I could do what they do, at least with my current type of training (as an educator).

I feel the same way about a host of other professions. Had I not once waited tables, I wouldn't foolishly claim that I could wait tables without first having the experience. We judge too much, and we respect too little. We like our little hierachies that make us feel like we're better than other people. (Davenport's criticism of educators reminds me of Mr. Pink's criticism of waitresses in the movie "Resevoir Dogs.")

Everyone thinks they know all that teaching involves because we all were once students, daily watching our teachers in action. Prior to becoming a teacher, I would have assumed the same: that I already had a thorough sense of everything that it takes to teach. I think my education classes in college covered a lot, but neither they nor student teaching itself prepared me for half of what I've experienced since I actually became a teacher.

Teachers suffer daily indignities from some of the students we are charged with teaching, indignities I wouldn't wish upon any fellow human being.

Davenport might not want to accept any blame for some of the attitudes and behaviors educators daily deal with from a small but significant number of our students, but attitudes such as his don't help and may even contribute to the overall problem of there not being enough respect in our society in general, with education being one of those underrespected parts of our society.

Is it enough just to say that we reap what we sow?


roch here some facts that you might want to read, i didn't get to read the whole thing but looks interesting here is the link ROCHANDHISFACTS


I am a relatively new teacher and make very little. In fact, I have worked two jobs every year to provide extra income.

I feel I am very well educated. I graduated from one of the most academically challenging universities in North Carolina and did so with relative ease. I easily could have gone into business, medicine, or law, however, I chose to teach for the love of the profession and the children I teach. I have to work a lot harder to be a good teacher than I ever have before.

I invite Mr. Davenport, Mr. Stoops, or anyone else to come teach in my classroom for one day. I would love for my students to help educate them. I guarantee they would leave with a different opinion about teachers and how easy the vocation (in Davenport's words)truly is.

davenport jr.

Ok, Roch. I'm delighted to provide sources, but let's begin with one, shall we? (I don't just mouth off w/out evidence, contrary to many of my critics.) Martin Gross, "The Conspiracy of Ignorance," pg. 44: In a 1997 study, SAT exams were given to 1.7 million kids. "Teacher hopefuls had only a 964 SAT score, far below average. They ranked fourth from the bottom of some twenty intended vocations." What do you think about that, Hmmmmm?
There are several other examples in the same book. I'll be happy to provide them, if you're truly interested. I would also recommend Thomas Sowell's "Inside American Education," and "No Excuses," by Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom. Both are highly informative (and depressing). Enjoy.



"Teachers suffer daily indignities from some of the students we are charged with teaching, indignities I wouldn't wish upon any fellow human being.

Davenport might not want to accept any blame for some of the attitudes and behaviors educators daily deal with from a small but significant number of our students, but attitudes such as his don't help and may even contribute to the overall problem of there not being enough respect in our society in general, with education being one of those underrespected parts of our society."

This pretty much sums it up.

Yes there are poor teachers. But oftentimes poor teachers are the result of poor students, poor parents, poor administrators, poor community support (let me clarify that this doesn't include the PTA).

Worked as a teacher for 3 years. It was physically and mentally the hardest work I have ever done. Whenever I hear someone trashing teachers I immediately put them in a class of "ignorant windbags". Teachers in general get my utmost respect and always will.



You cite a single study but decline to mention it in detail sufficient for us to find it for it ourselves. However, assuming it is valid and that you characterize it properly, I think it is illuminating that you consider a study that puts the SAT scores of kids intending to be educators at sixteen out of some twenty professions substantiation of your assertion that the "academic ability [confined to a measure of a single test taken before kids graduate high school] of educators [those who actually become teachers] is far lower [as measured by nothing] than that of individuals who choose to go into virtually every other 'professional' field [defined as nineteen other fields]."

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