Will increasing teachers’ salaries keep them in the classroom
Schools have always faced a high level of attrition. About 30% of teachers leave within their first five years of employment.
Now, hoping to keep them in the classroom, many governors are offering pay raises. For example, in Alabama, Republican Governor – and former high school teacher – Kay Ivey proposed a 4% raise. That would bring the starting salary for teachers there to around $43,000 a year.
If one state raises teachers’ salaries, others are likely to too, according to Jacob Vigdor, who studies education policy as a professor at the University of Washington.
“There’s a little element of an arms race going on,” he said.
It is difficult to recruit teachers without a competitive salary, he added. It’s also because they could make more money doing something else.
A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that public school teachers earn about 20% less than other workers with the same levels of experience and education.
“Teachers don’t do their jobs to get rich,” said Lawrence Mishel, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute and one of the study’s authors. “But they expect to be able to support the family, have a home and send their own kids to college. And I think it’s extremely difficult.
“We need to close this gap, this penalty gap for teachers,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. It is a union with 1.7 million members, many of whom are educators.
Weingarten said we need seasoned teachers in the classroom. “I speak now from my own experience: you are a better teacher in the third year than in the first year. We need to keep teachers teaching.
And Weingarten said we have to respect that experience. It is also essential to retain teachers.