A new study from the Texas Public Policy Foundation suggests that teachers’ salaries would increase if states encouraged school choice.
According to Dennis Van Roekel, the president of the National Education Association, poor teacher morale has been linked to shrinking school budgets. He suggests that raising teacher pay would raise teacher satisfaction. However, report authors Michael Barba and Vance Ginn question directly increasing spending as the best way to increase salaries. Instead, they say those salaries could see an increase through the introduction of competition into the education marketplace.
Texas is the largest employer of teachers with over 324,000 K-12 teachers in the public school system. Teachers employed by private schools in the state total just 23,360.
Local school boards in Texas determine teacher pay. While the state does set a minimum amount, individual salaries are adjusted by educational background and experience. After the minimum 10-month salary is set, teachers receive annual step increases based on the number of years they have taught.
The average teacher in Texas made $48,821 for the 2012-2013 school year. That number exceeds the state minimum due to the high volume of teachers who hold a bachelor’s degree (97%) or who have taught for more than three years (90%).
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that salaries are a sore spot for many teachers, with 45% reporting their salary as being the most dissatisfying part of their job.
Dr. Jacob Vidgor of Duke University discussed the phenomenon of a monopsony as being similar to a monopoly, but with the buyer having control over the market rather than the seller. When this occurs, he said, prices will stay down. “In a market that’s marked by monopsony power, the standard prediction for economics is that fewer teachers will be hired overall and their wages will be lower.” However, Vidgor contends that teacher salaries would rise due to the increase in purchasers in the education market.
The authors state that without school choice, there is little competition for a teacher’s skills, which in turn keeps salaries low. Therefore, they suggest that school choice would be a benefit to both students and teachers, as pay would increase with the increase in demand for good teachers.
Joseph Bast of the Heartland Institute believes that the introduction of school choice could raise public school teacher salaries in Houston by as much as $12,000.