I recently had a discussion with a friend who teaches in North Carolina and the salary crisis that the state faces. North Carolina has dropped to almost the bottom of the country in teacher salary, and Raleigh does not appear to be making too many moves to change this. So I wanted to do a little mathematical breakdown to see "what if I were still teaching in NC" ....
After graduating from Wake Forest University in 2004, I began teaching 5th grade in Winston-Salem, NC for $28,000 a year. Coming right out of college, I was ecstatic. I had never had a paycheck with four numbers on it per month, so this was the good life. I was living in a three bedroom apartment with two roommates and we lived a life a small step above college standards: real kitchen utensils in place of plastic, cooked chicken in place of ramen noodles, and beds that weren't bunks. We were real adults. Well, sort of.
Flash forward 10 years. A lot has changed for me. I am married now with a wife in medical school and we have a two year old son. I have a master's degree and National Board Certification, and a job that allows me to work with teachers across the country.
With the current chaos going on in Raleigh over teacher salary, I will play Devil's advocate and see what my life would be like right now if I were teaching in North Carolina still with a wife in school and a baby. Remember, the numbers I'm using are averages and fluctuate per month, but it gives a general perspective on reality for my family.
For those who know me I am a numbers person, so I am going to do this completely mathematically. Here we go ...
Since I taught in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools last while in NC, I will use that pay scale from 2012-2013, which means I would make $50,959 a year (masters + NBC + 10 yrs.). By the way, Charlotte has one of the higher teacher salaries, so this pay scale is generous in comparison to many NC counties. If I did a 12 month salary breakdown, I would have $4,246.58 a month in gross pay. Then there will be federal income tax, social security taken out, health benefits taken out, and NC state tax taken out under statutory deductions. This would take about 20% of the gross pay away, which leaves $3,397.26. There's also the voluntary deductions I had such as the 403(b) and NCAE contributions. That is about another $250, leaving $3,147.26.
Average monthly bills:
- Mortgage on condo: $1,300
- Electric: $90
- Gas: $20
- TV/Internet: $120
- HOA fees: $291 (welcome to Uptown Charlotte)
- Grocery/Food (including going out to eat): $500
- Baby items: $100
- Gas for cars: $200
- Entertainment: $60
- Haircuts: $30
- Dry cleaning: $40
At this point I'm up to $2,751 in expenses. Of course, this does not include unforeseeable expenses like house repairs and appliances, health expenses, or emergencies. This also does not include luxury expenses like gifts or vacations. You'll also notice no car payment. We have both paid off our cars (finally!), which is why it is not on there. There are obviously a few things on there I could do without or make adjustments to, but I want to have a realistic breakdown of expenses as it stands to see how this would actually play out.
I show all this to say it would be tough to be still teaching in North Carolina and maintain the lifestyle that I envision and desire for my family. I am also realistic that I know my situation would not even be the toughest, as there are people with more children than me, with higher bills (especially medical) that they are dealing with, and tougher living conditions.
As someone who loves NC and hopes to return one day to it, I hope North Carolina finds a way to provide its teachers with a more reasonable salary, so that we can recruit, retain, and reward the brightest and best North Carolina colleges have to offer!