Teacher Pay Scale Despite Subject Creates “Unfair” Parity

School districts don't differentiate what a teacher does when considering compensation, regardless of the district's educational needs. Teachers are paid on a single salary schedule based on seniority and education level, and this can lead to some vast disparities, writes Tom Gantert at the Michigan Capitol Confidential.

According to a Freedom of Information Act request, there are 19 gym teachers in the Farmington School District who make more than $85,000 a year each. The average gym teacher's salary in Farmington is $75,035. By comparison, the science teachers in that district make $68,483 per year on average. And this is not unusual in Michigan schools.

Gantent has found:

"In the Woodhaven-Brownstown district, 18.5 science teachers average some $58,400 per year in salary, while 12 gym teachers averaged nearly $76,700. In Harrison, science teachers earned $49,000 on average while gym teachers averaged $62,000."

After many students across the country did very poorly on a recent national exam, science education has become a concern. Fewer than 33 percent of elementary and high school students had a solid grasp of science according to results earlier this year from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center, said the single salary pay scale puts schools at a disadvantage in trying to attract and retain the best science teachers:

"If you are skilled in the science field, you are going to have a lot of opportunities with a private-sector company that will reward you more than a school district," Van Beek said. "Science and math are what the United States is most significantly trailing other countries in. Those are the fields that are seen as driving innovation and wealth creation."

Teachers in subject areas which are generally tougher to find — math, science, foreign language — should be paid more, says the Colossus of Rhodey.

Hube at the Colossus of Rhodey notes that in Delaware it's English and Math teachers that get the vast majority of the pressure from state testing. Yet they're not compensated adequately for this. And this isn't fair, as you could argue that an entire student's education relies on competent English and Math skills.

He explains:

"Non-core teachers rely on their English and math teaching colleagues to keep up good student test results … so that they get good evaluations. Aside from the inherent inanity in such an evaluation method, doesn't it make sense to compensate the teachers who bear the bulk of the testing pressure, i.e. English and math teachers?"

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