Behind the Headline: After 10 Years at Work, Teachers in Some States Make Less than $40,000

On Top of the News
After 10 Years at Work, Teachers in Some States Make Less than $40,000
7/23/14 | Vox

Behind the Headline
Scrap the Sacrosanct Salary Schedule
Fall 2008 | Education Next

In a post on, Libby Nelson notes that the average teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 10 years of experience earns less than $40,000 in many states, and that “relatively low salaries for experienced teachers with bachelor’s degrees are the norm, not the exception, in the US, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress.”

Are teacher salaries as low as they seem? And if so, why?

An Ed Next article by Jacob Vigdor, “Scrap the Sacrosanct Salary Schedule,” looks at some disturbing facts about the way we currently compensate teachers. Among them: current salary schedules reward teachers for their years of experience, advanced degrees, and some special credentials even when the connections between these things and a teacher’s ability to educate students is weak. Vigdor writes

The existing salary schedule rewards teachers too little for the substantial improvements they post in the first few years on the job, and too much for the later years of their career, when they show only incremental advances. An evidence-based salary schedule would alter this arrangement, focusing the rewards on the early rungs of the experience ladder.

A 2013 report by Josh McGee and Marcus Winters looked at what would happen if teacher salaries and benefits were not so back-loaded — that is, if so much of the money did not go to teachers who remain in the profession for a very long time and so little went to teachers who teach for less time. They found that it would be possible to raise teacher compensation (salaries and retirement benefits) by 5-8 percent for teachers who stay in the profession for less than 20 years in exchange for lowering compensation by up to 3.4 percent for 38-year veterans.

Public Impact has looked at ways of raising the pay of our most effective teachers by giving them jobs that allow them to reach even more students with their skills. They explain how these teachers could be paid dramatically more without changing overall budgets.

-Education Next

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