“Equal Pay for Southern Teachers,” from the Sunday, June 18, 1944, issue of The New York Times
North Carolina last week became the first Southern State to take the final step toward eliminating the differences in salaries of Negro and white public school teachers. At its June meeting the State Board of Education approved plans for equalizing salaries of Negro and white teachers with surplus funds expected to be on hand during the 1944-45 school term, thus fulfilling a pledge made a decade ago to the Negroes of North Carolina.
Several other Southern states now are in the process of equalizing Negro and white teacher salaries, some because of court orders. In 1940, the Fourth United States Circuit Court of Appeals held that differentials in teacher salaries based on race are discriminatory and in violation of the Constitution.
Equalization by Agreement
Since the opinion was handed down, Negro teachers in a number of Southern States have brought court action in an effort to obtain pay equal to that of the white teachers in the same State. No such court action has been brought in North Carolina, where Negro teachers and the State government chose to bring about equalization under an agreement covering a period of years.
The salary differences, known to educators as the “differential,” will be eliminated entirely during the 1944-45 school year and after the next school term it will no longer appear as a separate item on the public school budget. The State Board of Education instructed its finance committee to make provisions for equalizing the pay of white and Negro teachers in the budget for the next school term.
Elimination of the differential was brought to the attention of the board by Gov. J.M. Broughton, who appeared personally and requested that the action be taken. It is estimated that the additional cost to the State will be $201,000.
When the Advisory Budget Commission met in the fall of 1942 to draw up the 1943-45 appropriations bill, it was proposed to the commission that it recommend the wiping out of the differential during the 1943-45 biennium. The commission favored adoption of the war bonus to all State employes, and voted to leave for the 1945 General Assembly the final step in removing the differential in teacher salaries.
The commission at that time pointed out that it is the moral and legal obligation of the State to fulfill the pledge made to Negro teachers. Governor Broughton maintained that the State could no longer ignore the final step, since revenues are now sufficient to finance the undertaking.
Most of the Southern States are projecting a gradual plan of equalizing salaries of Negro and white teachers. Negro leaders generally are in full accord with the plans for gradual elimination of the differential.