A new report released by the Economic Policy Institute has found that the gap between what teachers are paid in comparison with other careers is the largest it has ever been.
Written by Sylvia Allegretto and Lawrence Mishel, the report found the wages paid to public school teachers across the nation to be 17% lower than those paid to comparable workers in 2015. Meanwhile, the difference in wages was just 1.8% lower in 1994. The authors go on to suggest that this gap is higher for experienced teachers than it is for those just entering the field.
While they say that some of the difference can be attributed to a trade-off between wages and benefits, the entire compensation of teachers, including both wages and benefits, in 2015 was still 11.1% lower when compared to workers in similar areas.
The report argues that this topic is important because effective teachers are found to be the most important aspect of education outcomes in terms of school-based determinants. Because of this, the authors say it is of the utmost importance that schools across the nation are able to recruit and retain high-quality teachers.
At the same time, teachers across the nation are reporting higher instances of stress as standardized tests continue to be connected to student, school, and teacher evaluations.
It goes on to say that this could be difficult to do, as teacher supply is currently affected by high turnover rates, an increase in retirements of experienced teachers, and a decline in the number of students entering teacher preparation programs, which the authors say is due to an expansion in the number of career opportunities available for women.
Teacher retirement is currently exacerbating the situation, as veteran teachers are leaving the profession at a higher rate than in the past. While these teachers, who account for less than one-third of teachers who leave the profession, are not viewed as the driving force behind teacher shortages, the report suggests that they do represent an annual reduction in the number of high-quality teachers available throughout the workforce.
In addition, the authors state that these teachers are usually replaced by those who are new to the profession, and who face a high attrition rate, which has increased by 41%. The report states that this is primarily due to non-retirement turnover. The authors suggest that the increased attrition create a growing instability in the teaching profession that has a direct effect on classroom efficacy.
Meanwhile, teacher demand has seen an increase as the result of more rigorous national student performance standards in addition to mandates across the country seeking to reduce class sizes.
“In light of these challenges, providing adequate wages and benefits is a crucial tool for attracting and keeping the teachers America’s children need.”
The authors conclude that in order to improve the quality of the teacher workforce as a whole, wages need to see an increase to recruit and retain high-quality teachers. They note that policies focusing on a change to the current composition of pay, such as merit or pay-for-performance, are not effective. Instead, they state that the teacher compensation disadvantage needs to be corrected.