If you listen to the latest round of gubernatorial campaign ads, you’d either think teacher pay has skyrocketed or plummeted under Governor Pat McCrory. Neither is the case. There's also more to the story of a teacher highlighted in a Roy Cooper ad.
Cooper's latest ad for governor begins with the display of these words: "August 2016, a true story." There's a modest home with a U-Haul in the driveway. Then, you see a young woman packing up boxes in a kitchen.
"At first, I was so happy to teach in North Carolina, but we've fallen to 41st in teacher pay," she says.
That number is right, but teacher pay has not fallen. Over the past three years, the state's average teacher pay has actually risen from 47th to 41st.
For many years North Carolina was in the middle of the pack, but wages began to stagnate in 2009. In 2014, McCrory and state lawmakers agreed to raise teacher salaries and, yes, as McCrory boasts in a recent ad and "gave teachers the largest pay-raise in the country."
That year North Carolina's average teacher salary increased about 6 percent. McCrory and the legislature approved smaller pay raises the past two years. The state's average teacher pay totaled $47,985 last year, but North Carolina still ranks among the lowest in the Southeast.
That brings us back to the teacher packing boxes in Cooper's ad.
"Like over 2000 other teachers, I'm having to move to another state so that I can do what I love and make ends meet. Someone needs to fix this," she says.
The teacher is identified simply as Adelle B in Durham. Cooper's campaign did not give WFAE her full name and did not respond to interview requests. The McCrory campaign has identified her as Adelle Banister. We've also found that appears to be the case. She's a P.E. teacher who left Durham Public Schools for a teaching job with the district in Roanoke, Virginia. It didn't take a much higher salary to lure her there. Her salary is $42,940, just $190 more than in Durham. The cost of living is similar according to the Council for Community and Economic Research.
Now, back to the first part of her statement.
"Like over 2,000 other teachers, I'm having to move to another state."
Maybe. But spread out over a few years. Last year, 1,028 teachers left North Carolina to take teaching jobs in other states. That's the latest data the state has on that. Back in 2008, it was 467.
One thing Cooper's ad does get right, is that North Carolina is now ranked 44th in per student funding. The state and local districts spend an average of $8,898 per students. That's about how much they spent on students in 2009. That's not adjusted for inflation.