Keeping up with education policy at the national level and in all fifty states can be a daunting, if not impossible, task. But last week, North Carolina made news that should get everyone’s attention.
After a contentious legislative session in which the House, Senate, and governorship were controlled by Republicans for the first time in over a century, lawmakers passed a 2013-15 North Carolina state budget that eliminates the pay increase for a teacher obtaining a master’s degree. The budget also implements a teacher pay freeze for the fifth time in six years.
Past research has found that, on average, a teacher holding a between master’s degrees in education (which comprise 90% of teachers’ master’s degrees) does not make him or her more likely increase student achievement, which is the likely rationale for North Carolina’s move. Currently, about 28% of North Carolina teachers hold master’s degrees. A 2009 report found that 38% of Arkansas teachers hold master’s degrees, and the average pay bump was $4,183. In that year, over $56 million was spent on master’s pay bump in Arkansas, equal to 1.20% of the total education expenditures, as compared to North Carolina’s 1.09%. Nationally, master pay bumps range from .032% to 3.30% of total education expenditures, indicating that the cost savings achieved by eliminating the master’s bump will vary depending on the state.
Whether or not other states will pick up this banner in a move to help alleviate state budgets is yet to be seen. To the degree that these moves are found not to impact K-12 results, you can expect that other states will look to North Carolina outcomes to see whether or not it is time to follow suit.