A new study completed for the Alaskan legislature by University Alaska Anchorage's Center for Alaska Education Policy Research argues that implementing a standardized salary schedule for teachers in the state would be too expensive to implement, although it would be beneficial for school districts.
According to the new pay schedule, teachers in Anchorage would receive an additional 10%, but Southeast Alaska's Pelican City School District would have to give their teachers an additional 105%.
Researchers suggest that the pay schedule created for the study should not be used by districts in the state. Despite the help it would offer communities in their efforts to attract and keep high-quality teachers, in the end it would not be cost-effective.
The pay schedule was created based on student demographics, travel costs when going to a hub, teacher turnover rates, climate and labor force participation, and many other factors.
Diane Hirshberg, the center's director, suggests that the state cannot afford to pay teachers what they should be receiving. Instead, she says some innovation is necessary when it comes to the subject of education.
The study's pay schedule would cause salary costs across the state to increase by an average of 15%. In addition, most rural schools would be required to offer higher salaries than would be offered at urban schools, writes Tegan Hanlon for Alaska Dispatch News.
The schedule would require Pelican City School District to give $85,853 per year to a first-year teacher with a bachelor's degree. Meanwhile, Fairbanks would pay the same teacher $43,961 and Anchorage would pay $51,719.
While the study found Anchorage needing to pay their teachers 10% more, it found teachers in Fairbanks, Juneau and Ketchikan receiving too much. However, some teachers, including those in Wasilla, Palmer, Meadow Lakes, Big Lake and Houston were found to be paid the right amount.
"This likely reflects a number of factors, including the increasing challenges that Anchorage faces around educating immigrants, English language learners, and students in poverty, as well as the relatively lower housing costs and high community amenities of the MatâSu area," the report said.
According to the report, although the salary schedule would be an accurate portrayal of teacher preferences, there could not be a guarantee that it would result in rural schools being better able to keep and retain teachers.
Hirshberg suggested that working conditions must be improved in schools throughout the state. If that happens, salaries may not need to change much.
The study went on to say further research was needed in the area of creating of merit-based pay schedule and that the Legislature should not change the tenure system currently in place in the state. The system should be looked at only after it is found how well new teacher evaluation systems are working.
The study came as a result of the omnibus education bill which was passed in 2014 under former Governor Sean Parnell. The Sustainable Education Task Force had recommended an analysis of teacher salaries and benefits that year after many districts began complaining about salary costs. Lawmakers thought creating a salary schedule would save money while also creating more time for school administrators to focus on the children.
"It's better to understand the diversification we do have and why sometimes one-size doesn't fit all," said Tammie Wilson, who co-chaired the Sustainable Education Task Force that year.