Teacher Salaries Are Not Keeping up with Economic
> 1/2/2007 10:14:28 AM

For all the recent focus on the importance of teacher quality and school choice, the salaries of public educators stood nearly stagnant from 1994 to 2004, according to detailed surveys organized by the American Federation of Teachers. Most importantly, average salaries for comparable jobs rose by exponentially higher rates overall. Beginning teachers in particular saw very little increase in salary. To develop an idea of the relative worth of American teachers, the average salary offered to a recent college graduate with a non-education degree in 2004 was just over $40,000, or almost $9,000 more than that of a beginning public schoolteacher. Though the numbers have dropped slightly in most professions due to recent economic difficulties, teachers' pay went down considerably after adjusting for inflation. While a few scattered states, particularly those in the southeast, saw increases of up to 23%, salaries across most of the country decreased by as much as 14%.

All of these statistics spell bad news for American education. Fewer teachers now last ten years in the field, and of those who quit before that time, one in three list low pay as the primary reason for their departure. Larger salary options are obviously one of the main elements used to draw qualified teachers into the pool, and less money equals decreased interest, particularly for starting positions.When pay is almost entirely determined by seniority, it's no wonder that many new graduates do not wish to toil in the lower ranks of education for just over $30,000 dollars a year. Average beginning salaries increased by an average of only $200 per year from 1994 to 2004.

What is the reason behind the failure of the education sector to keep up with the rest of our economy? Increased benefits and health insurance premiums in the public sector play some part in determining pay, but again, average private-sector benefits increased at a greater rate than those for teachers over the ten-year period in question. Overall economic growth has slowed over the last several years, but none of this explains why teacher salaries are still so embarrassingly low. The federal government provides 8.5% of the funding for K-12 programs in this country, and budget deficits and increased national debt leave little room for investment in the education field. The unfortunate patterns that took hold over the last decade are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Until our country decides that this observable education crisis merits more national attention and funding, the average salary for an American teacher will continue to drop in relation to other fields of employment. At a time when our supply of quality educators is dangerously low, this issue is absolutely crucial.

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