Posted by: Bill | August 11, 2009

Short post on teacher salaries

Everyone thinks teachers are underpaid, right? No, not really. Check out this short video on perceptions of teachers’ salaries and how they change once things are put in perspective. Not a week goes by that I don’t hear someone say or read that teachers are underpaid. My views on this subject have been uneven over the years. Before my time at ABCTE, I assumed teachers were underpaid. Like most people, I had no idea what an average teacher’s salary was. However, I somehow knew they were underpaid. I have learned a little more on the subject since then.

There is a fair amount of data out there (usually put together by economists) showing that teachers are not underpaid at all. There is even more “evidence” produced by unions and union-run think tanks that they are vastly underpaid. The scare quotes around evidence are there to indicate my skepticism.

I wish I could find the best study I ever read on the topic, but it’s from too long ago. It talked about how starting salaries were in a very good place relative to other professions. However, the payscale was squeezed by the need to treat everyone the same. Raises are based on experience and “professional development” credits. They have nothing to do with job performance. Strong advanced math teachers are harder to find so simple market forces should dictate that they make more than say…elementary teachers. This, of course, is not allowed because of collective bargaining agreements.

As with many professions, I wish there was a way to pay teachers a lot more. That we know is fantasy because of many factors such as the ones described above, but mainly because their salaries are mostly born by our property taxes. Like most education policy issues, there is obviously no silver bullet here. Reforming collective bargaining agreements AND teacher evaluation AND teacher preparation AND education funding vehicles is a tall order. I am not being cynical, just realistic.


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