WUNC, 10/2/15

More teachers are leaving North Carolina to teach in other states, according to a report from the Department of Public Instruction.

It shows 1,082 of the state’s teachers left for classrooms in other parts of the country last year. That’s more than triple the number that left for other states in 2010.

State Superintendent June Atkinson says lawmakers need to raise pay for North Carolina’s veteran teachers to keep them in the state. The General Assembly recently increased the salary for new teachers from $33,000 to $35,000.

"Now that we've done that," Atkinson said, "it really is important to look at our seasoned teachers, who have so much more to offer, and to see what we can do to keep them in the classroom."

Those beginning teacher pay increases bumped North Carolina from 47th to 42nd in the nation for teacher pay, and a recent study by the Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) shows teachers in the three North Carolina districts it looked at got some of the biggest pay increases in the country last school year. The study looked at Wake, Guilford and Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, along with 107 other school districts nationwide.

But all three North Carolina districts included in the study fell to the bottom of the list when it came to potential lifetime earnings. Adjusted for cost of living, the national median potential lifetime earnings for teachers were $1.86 million. Potential lifetime earnings for teachers in Wake, Guilford, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg each came in around $1.5 million, adjusted for cost of living.

Mark Jewell of the North Carolina Association of Educators says lifetime earning potential is low for teachers in North Carolina because their salaries are capped at about $50,000.

"That's (an increase of) only $15,000 over their whole career," Jewell said.

The national average ending salary, according to the NCTQ study, was around $76,000.

The DPI report on teacher turnover also showed the number of North Carolina teachers who left the classroom entirely,  either because of dissatisfaction with the teaching profession or a desire to pursue a different career, more than tripled over the last five years. A little more than 1,200 reported leaving the profession for these reasons last school year. In 2010, that number was 366.

Overall teacher turnover in the state ticked up slightly from last year, to 14.84 percent. The increase means the state has seen a rise in teacher turnover for four out of the last five years.