Superintendent’s new effort to market teaching in NC is playing fast and loose with the facts

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In February, North Carolina Superintendent Mark Johnson held a controversial, invitation-only dinner to reveal what he termed ‘major announcements for our education system.’

At that event, Johnson told attendees about a new marketing campaign to improve the image of teaching in our state.  The charge would be led by his Department of Public Instruction and Best NC, a pro-business education reform lobbying organization whose board of directors is made up of wealthy, influential executives from businesses like Bank of America, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Allen Tate Real Estate.  

The goal of marketing is to increase sales, sometimes by convincing the customer they are getting something which they actually aren’t. That appears to be the strategy in use by Teach North Carolina, whose website recently launched.

Teach NC let it be known from the beginning that they aimed to set the record straight on how well North Carolina teachers are compensated:

Unfortunately, the information Teach NC provides to the public on their Salary & Benefits page is riddled with the following misleading claims and outright falsehoods.  

NC teachers make $53,975 on average

Fact:  While technically true, a recent analysis by NC Public School Forum found that this misleading figure includes $4580 in local salary supplement.  But 87% of NC’s districts offer salary supplements that are less than that amount–and some offer none at all.  The number also includes compensation for certifications/advanced degrees that many teachers don’t have and bonuses that many teachers aren’t eligible for.

Teachers can earn bonuses for teaching Advanced Placement, Reading or Math

Fact:  The only Reading and Math teachers eligible for bonuses are those in narrowly defined grade levels whose students’ standardized test scores place them in the top 25% in their school district.  AP teachers get a $50 bonus for each student who passes their AP exam.  Teachers absolutely do not earn bonuses simply for teaching those classes.

In North Carolina, teachers receive secure retirement plans

Fact:  In 2017, state legislators stripped retiree health benefits for any state employee hired after January 1, 2021.  Teachers who come to North Carolina before that date will still get those benefits unless legislators take further action, but it’s important to be aware of the whole story.

At most schools, you’ll have about two months to earn extra income

Fact:  Ok, that one is actually true.  According to the most recently available data from the National Center for Education Statistics, more than half of North Carolina’s teachers have at least one additional job.  I’d argue that’s not a particularly strong selling point if you’re trying to attract teachers to our state.

When the website initially launched, Teach NC also claimed that teachers in NC can increase their pay by earning a master’s degree.  As any North Carolina teacher can tell you, compensation for advanced degrees was eliminated by the legislature in 2013.

The organization deleted that falsehood after being publicly called out for it on social media:

What North Carolina’s public schools need is not the appearance of being great places to work, they need to actually become great places to work.  They need to become places with roofs that don’t leak, where educators are respected and empowered, where students are safe and supported, and where we have all of the resources that we need to get the job done.  Those are the changes that will really improve recruitment and retention of teachers in our state.

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