Yeah, About That Teacher Pay Stub With ZERO Details…

People, context, and details make all the difference. A social media post of a teacher’s paystub, which the teacher has now taken down, has zero context and zero details.

The number of emails and messages I received about a viral photo of a North Carolina teacher’s paycheck has prompted me to drop a quick article.

After digging into it, this teacher’s paycheck sob story has more holes in it than a piece of Swiss cheese. The short version:  He makes over $81 dollars a day, not $53.


Let’s start at the beginning.  Here is the image Nick Cols Brandes posted to Facebook:

For those of you who missed what he wrote, here is the accompanying text is in its entirety. I copied it for safe keeping because I had a feeling it would go ‘poof‘ once his failure to do basic math was deconstructed.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week. I want to share something with you.

This is my 10th year teaching. I love it. I love the school I work at. I love the kids I teach. I love the teachers that I teach with. I love my Principal and Assistant Principal. I love the county. I don’t hate it when I get up every morning. I don’t hate the drive. I dont hate my classroom. Overall, I love my job.

I was hesitant to share this because it’s personal information but I’m at the point where some people just need to see the truth of my life, that I lead, as a 32 year old married father of one.

Last month, my take home pay was $1,715.81. I want to add that includes money taken out to pay for my daughters insurance and her childcare, lavish expenses I know, but necessities for my wife and my existence.

That was my pay for the whole month. That amount of money has to last me all the way until May 31st. I’m not a math wizard, as I am an English teacher, but when you divide that, I want you to know that I am roughly being paid $53 a day to educate your child. If you divide that by 8 hours, the amount a great deal of people think I work which in actual reality is nowhere near the amount I work, I will be making $6.69 an hour. In my state, NC, the minimum wage is currently $7.70.

Recently my entire air condition system went out and needs replacing. My daughter broke her arm. We call this life. And it happens to everyone. The difference is that I am working a job that most see as a valuable resource of utmost importance, and I cannot pay for anything. My wife is also a teacher and is in the same boat.

We as educators are hurting. We literally do not make enough. It’s not just me either, it’s all of us. In my state, there are already school systems that are shutting down on May 16th as a show of solidarity amongst teachers. To attend, I would have to take a personal day which would reduce my check by an additional $75 dollars, an amount I cannot afford.

I know some will look at this and speak to the fact that I get summers off. I do. I get two weeks vacation here and a week there. I do. All of that is true. I, however, do not get paid for those days.

I want you to see what the people who are educating your children are being paid. The people who are writing Letters of Recommendation. The people who are giving them the tools to achieve things that most never thought possible. The people who give themselves daily to wide swaths of kids. The people who love your child regardless of their age, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or any other difference under the sun. The people who are there, caring, day in and day out, who love, LOVE, what they do, and who they do it for.

And if you can believe that and look at the snapshot of my paycheck and not become infuriated that those of us who offer so much of ourselves for your children are being paid next to nothing, than we have already lost the battle.

But, if you can believe that and look at the snapshot of my paycheck and it makes your heart hurt, or your stomach crawl, then I ask of you to share this. Share it with everyone who you can think of. Mine is not an uncommon story, in fact I may say it is par for the course. Share it. Make it known that you are not alright with what is occurring in our school, in our state, and in our country.

And then don’t stop there. Make sure you demand for your child what every parent wants for their child. The best. And the best comes when we pay those a wage that isn’t extraordinary, but fair. When we fund our education in a way that allows our students to achieve in a way that no one thought possible.

I’m rambling. I’m an English teacher, it’s what I do, just ask my students. They may be able to recount what they learned in class that day to you, or you can probably hear it straight from us when you run into us at our second and third jobs.


Let’s talk about the math here. Brandes claims he’s only being paid $53 a day. He himself states that “I’m not a math wizard,” but dang, as a teacher shouldn’t he least double-check your own work? Or at the very least be honest about how he arrived at that number?

Here’s the thing unless he’s working 30 days a month, he’s making more than $53 a day. Fact checking this math in Brandes’ Facebook post was ignored by North Carolina media except for a single article by Abbey Bennett at the News and Observer.

I have to give credit where it’s due – Bennett promptly debunked the $53 dollars a day part and called him out for counting every day of the month:

Brandes counted every day of the month in his daily pay estimate.

If you account for all 21 Monday through Friday working days in April, Brandes’ pay comes out closer to about $81.70 per day.

So just to be clear, it’s plausible using real numbers and real math, that Brandes is making $42,172 a year. That’s $81.70 per day, not $53.00.

That $42,172 before taxes and deductions and including the Stokes Supplement. The salary supplement in Stokes County is currently 4.0% of income and has been at that rate since the 2013-14 school year. The average in that district right now for 2017-18. Brandes’s supplement over that average supplement amount at $1,622.

Give this pay stub some context and put it in perspective. The 2016 U.S. Census report listed the following, in inflation adjusted dollars):

NC Median Household Income: $48,256.
NC Average Household Income: $67,367.
NC Per Capita Income: $26,779.

I don’t know about anyone else, but after 5 years of consecutive raises, I’m a little tired of teachers making as much or more than the average single income earner in North Carolina complaining about their pay and making ends meet…you know, like everyone else?

I think what bothers me about Mr. Brandes’ comments is that he somehow that he’s surprised by it and expects the rest of us grinding out our livings at about the same salary as his to be outraged.

Back to that pay stub

The devil is often in the details of things and there are next to zero details in that image.

Questions that should have immediately been asked by media and by anyone  else viewing that pay stub:

  1. What are his state and federal deductions? (An average Social Security / FICA deduction is somewhere in the neighborhood of 22%)
  2. What are his benefits deductions? Disability? Dental? Vision? Worker’s compensation? 401k? Medical? What level of medical?  The Stokes County plans include two options:
    -Traditional 70/30 plan is available to the employee with a monthly premium of $25 to $85 (Premium amount varies with participation of Wellness Activities)
    -Enhanced 80/20 plan is available to the employee with a monthly premium of $50 to $110 (Premium amount varies with participation of Wellness Activities)
  3. What is his state retirement deductions? (Answer: 6% of his pre-tax income)
  4. Does he have any other deductions than childcare? Why is his daughter not on his insurance? Child support of other kinds? Self-requested deductions? A wage garnishment or levy? We don’t know, because there’s no other context provided with the image Brandes provided.
  5. Does he have National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certification? From the Stokes County Schools website, it appears he does not.
  6. Why does he have a pay stub handy to plaster on social media conveniently for Teacher Appreciation Week? Paychecks are direct deposited. Stokes County indeed does use direct deposit.
  7. In 2016, Brandes was removed by the Stokes Board of Education as a “wrestling head.” The actual text reads: “Nick Brandes Wrestling Head – REMOVE.” Did he receive additional compensation for this role and if he was removed, did this affect his paycheck?

According to the North Stokes High School bio page for Brandes, he joined Stokes County Schools in 2008.  This meant he became a teacher just about the time Democrat Governor Bev Perdue and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly were freezing teacher pay.

I took the time to pull all of the salary data from 2008 through 2018.  If Brandes became a teacher in 2008-2009 and only seems to have a bachelors degree at that time per his bio, these are the salary rates that applied:

  • Zero experience/ starting teacher:
    $3,043 Month, $2,535.83 12 month installment, $30,430 annual.
  • If he did had a masters on top of his bachelors:
    $3,347 Month, $2,789.17 12 month installment, $33,470 Annual

Per the Dept. of Public Instruction’s Statistical Profile, the average supplement in Stokes County that year was $1,683.

Now, recall that in 2008 under Democrat Governor Beverly Perdue and the Democrat-controlled legislature, teacher pay was frozen. It was not unfrozen for several years (until 2011-12) so Brandes’ pay rate has been affected by that.

As a result of the Democrats freezing teacher pay, Brandes’ salary for 2009-10 and 2010-2011 would have been the same as his first year. The supplements in Stokes County those years, respectively, were $1,673 and $1,626.

Below are the base salary rates for all the years that follow through 2018, including the Stokes County Supplement pay. The first number is the montly pay rate, the second is the pay rate in 12 monthly installments and the final number is the annual pay rate.

2011-12 (4th year):
$3,085, $2,570.83, $30,850 – Bachelors
$3,442, $2,868.33, $34,420 – Masters
$1,627 – Supplement

2012-13 (5th year)
$3,122, $2,601.67, $31,220 – Bachelors
$3,434, $2,861.67, $34,340 – Masters
$1,624 – Supplement

2013-14 (6th year)
$3,122, $2,601.67, $31,220 – Bachelors
$3,434, $2,861.67, $34,340 – Masters
$1,613 – Supplement

2014-15 (7th year)
$3,650, $3,041.67, $36,500 – Bachelors
$4,015, $3,345.83, $40,150 – Masters
$1,664 – Supplement

2015-16 (8th year)
$3,650, $3,041.67, $36,500 – Bachelors
$4,015, $3,345.83, $40,150 – Masters
$1,593 – Supplement

2016-17 (9th year) ($750 bonus year)
$3,950, $3,291.67, $39,500 – Bachelors
$4,345, $3,620.83, $43,450 – Masters
$1,620 – Supplement

2017-18 (10th year)
$4,055, $3,379.17,  $40,550 – Bachelors
$4,461, $3,717.50 12, $44,610 – Masters
$1,530 – Supplement

For those interested in what a difference board certification makes in pay, here are the additional rates for NBPTS at 10 years:

Bachelors 2/ NBPTS:
$4,542 Month, $3,785.00 12 Month Installments, $45,420 Annual
Masters with NBPTS
$4,948 Month, $4,123.33 12 Month Installments, $49,480 Annual

All past salary guides can be viewed here.

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips:
This entry was posted in A.P. Dillon (LL1885), EDUCATION, NC DPI, NCAE, POLITICS NC and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Yeah, About That Teacher Pay Stub With ZERO Details…

  1. Yond says:

    How much was deducted for childcare? That’s not cheap. I never deducted it from my annual pay when I applied for a mortgage.


  2. delow241 says:

    You should also note that his wife is a teacher there too. Assuming she is a similar tenure and education level they are making about $81,000 together. That is 20% over the average and twice as much as the median incomes. Plus the general assembly is considering a 6.5% increase in pay. What galls me about all this is many in the real world of corporate America are not getting raises still. I have not gotten one in three years! When I worked at a major bank based in the Triad of NC the average person got 1% raises year after year and was told that was great.


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