In National Review, Reihan Salam writes that the 5 percent increase in pay secured by striking teachers in West Virginia does not trouble him; what does trouble him is that no effort has been made to transform the way teacher salary schedules work.
Most everyone, from those who believe that teachers should earn more, so that the profession attracts the best and the brightest, to those who believe that union contracts are bankrupting American schools, while also leading to poorer educational outcomes, agrees that there is something wrong with the way our educators are paid. Instead of allowing teachers unions to seize the initiative, state lawmakers need an affirmative agenda for how to fix teacher pay. The answer is not to hike it across the board, regardless of the impact on learning, but to ensure that any additional spending redounds to the benefit of students.
Salam goes on to cite the work of Jacob Vigdor on the problematic way raises are structured over a teacher’s lifetime.
Across the country, salaries generally start low — much lower than for other professionals — although there are boosts for advanced degrees and other credentials. Over time, as a teacher racks up years of experience, his or her salary also rises, peaking when that teacher reaches his or her mid 50s and is close to retirement.
Such a pay structure might make sense if credentials helped ensure better teaching and if every additional year on the job came with some sort of improvement in effectiveness. In fact, Vigdor explains, “the available evidence suggests that the connection between credentials and teaching effectiveness is very weak at best, and the connection between additional years of experience and teaching effectiveness, while substantial in the first few years in the classroom, attenuates over time.”
More about what is wrong with current teacher salary schedules and how they could be fixed can be found in Jacob Vigdor’s article, “Scrap the Sacrosanct Salary Schedule.”
— Education Next