There’s good news and bad news for North Carolina teachers in the April Elon University Poll.
First, the bad news: 54 percent of respondents said they oppose granting tenure to teachers after the four-year trial period. Forty percent support tenure.
The good news? Seventy-four percent of respondents said that teachers aren’t paid enough. Seventeen percent said teachers are paid about right, and only 2 percent — 2! — said teachers are paid too much.
It’s a political issue now because Republicans in the state House and Senate want to change the tenure laws. They just can’t agree how. Last week, a Senate committee voted to eliminate tenure, while bipartisan House legislation is designed to weaken it, but keep it.
The state’s main teacher lobbying group, the NCAE, opposes changing the law, saying that there is an effective evaluation system already in place. (North Carolina isn’t the only state looking at teacher tenure.)
Breaking the numbers down, support for tenure starts strong with those 18-30 and declines steadily as those polled get older. It also starts strong with those making less than $50,000 and declines as the respondents’ pay gets higher. African Americans support tenure 54 percent to 30 percent; Whites oppose it, 60 percent to 34 percent.
But when it comes to teacher compensation, political affiliation, gender, race or age don’t matter. Respondents by large margins think teachers are underpaid. We asked respondents to guess the average salary for a teacher and most of them came pretty close. As Assistant Poll Director Jason Husser said, “Even those who wildly overestimated teacher pay thought teachers in North Carolina were paid too little.”
Given the state’s budget situation, it is doubtful that teachers will get a substantial raise this year. Presumably those supporting the elimination of tenure would make the case that the tenure debate has little to do with salary levels. That’s probably true.
But the sentiment of N.C. residents seems clear — teachers are underpaid and should be paid more.
— John Robinson