North Carolina’s rise up the national rankings for average teacher pay came to a halt this year, according to a new report released by the National Education Association.

The NEA salary report released last week estimates that North Carolina’s average teacher pay is $54,682 a year, up from $53,940 last school year. The NEA projects that North Carolina ranked 30th in the nation in teacher pay in the 2019-20 school year out of the 50 states and the District Columbia.

That’s the same spot that North Carolina held last school year. The NEA originally projected that the state had risen to 29th place in the 2018-19 school year before revising it to 30th place in the final rankings.

The state’s NEA ranking has rebounded from when North Carolina had fallen to 47th in the rankings in 2013 after the Great Recession. But this year’s slowdown coincides with last year’s budget fight between Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and the Republican-led General Assembly that resulted in teachers getting no raises.

Cooper, with the support of the N.C. Association of Educators, vetoed last year’s budget in part, he said, because the teacher raises were insufficient. He later vetoed a standalone bill that included the teacher raises, again saying they were “paltry.”

The state likely won’t see much, if any, improvement on next year’s rankings.

This year, legislators passed Senate Bill 818, giving teachers a $350 bonus and salary step increases for some educators for each additional year of experience.

Republican legislators cited the economic slowdown this year caused by the coronavirus pandemic to not give new raises while pointing back to the raises given in prior years.

“North Carolina now ranks second in the southeast because of Republican-led teacher pay raises,” Sen. Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga, said in a news release Friday. “It wasn’t too long ago that Democrats had to fire teachers and cut their salaries because of their budgetary pratfalls.”

Cooper signed SB 818 into law Friday but said in a statement that “it falls outrageously short on raises we need to give teachers and all school personnel like bus drivers and cafeteria workers.”

“The Legislature must make educator pay a top priority when they come back in September,” he said the written statement.

The new NEA report puts the estimated average teacher salary in the U.S. at $63,645. That’s up from $62,304 last school year.

Some people question the validity of the state salary figures because they include experienced teachers who get things that are denied to younger teachers, such as extra pay for master’s degrees. They also include the local salary supplements provided by counties to boost what the state provides.

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