Home > Uncategorized > Pay Disparities for Teachers Will Never Disappear… But They CAN Be Closed with Thoughtful Legislation AND More Money

Pay Disparities for Teachers Will Never Disappear… But They CAN Be Closed with Thoughtful Legislation AND More Money

August 31, 2019

In Teacher Shortage, Protests Complicate Educator Pay Dynamics, AP writers Morgan Smith and Sally Ho describe the experience of districts in the west as they try to remediate the pay differentials between districts by expanding the amount of money allocated at the state level. Using a Utah teacher who increased her pay by 25% as the result of switching districts as their exemplar, the writers describe the shortage of teachers across the nation without stating the obvious: districts serving the children of affluent parents are not encountering this problem while districts serving children raised in poverty are. Why? Because until states abandon or greatly limit their reliance on local property taxes it will be impossible for proper poor districts to ever close the gap with affluent districts. But Mss. Ho and Smith sidestep this issue altogether, instead relying on this quote to make it sound like improving teacher compensation packages will require some kind of mathematical genius:

It’s difficult to compare school pay scales because of the endless variables across classrooms and campuses, said Dan Goldhaber, director of the Center for Education Data and Research at the University of Washington. But merely increasing salaries for all without differentiating for other factors such as student population challenges and regional issues means pay disparities will remain as they always have existed.

“If it doesn’t address the relative differentials between school systems, there’s no reason to think it would help with teacher equality,” Goldhaber said.

In describing what is happening in Washington State, they write:

Recalibrating the complexities of the state’s overarching funding model has put school finances on a rollercoaster as lawmakers tried to redo or undo aspects of the financial levers the schools have long depended on, such as local levies.

“We see the impact of districts nearby offering a signing bonus,” Grassel said. “In that way, we’re still behind the game. We’ve not yet figured out how to get ahead of that curve.”

This just in I: All “local levies” require property tax increases so if your district is property poor or populated by people who cannot afford a marginal increase in their property taxes, a tax levy will not pass and the pay differentials will increase.

This just in II: Any teacher with a fundamental understanding of salary dynamics understands that a “signing bonus” or any “bonus” that does not add to their base pay is not going to be a retention factor OR an attraction. An astute teacher will look at the length of time it takes to reach the top salary (i.e. the number of steps on the pay schedule) and the value of the top step and intuitively understand that a compressed wage scale with a higher figure at the top is superior to multiple-step pay schedule with a low to middling pay schedule. Offering a “$5,000 signing bonus” will not change that reality and, consequently, will not attract the best and brightest to the neediest districts. Bonuses do not work as an enticement to move from one district to another and will not draw more college graduates to teaching.

This just in III: BOTTOM LINE: Improving teacher compensation requires more money which, in turn, requires higher taxes…. and with more and more requirements being shifted to States it is hard to imagine that tax increases will be occurring any time soon… which means the disparities will continue.

Contrary to the implied complexity put forth in the article, the ultimate solution is easy: raise broad-based taxes and distribute the revenues raised based on the relative wealth of each district with poorer districts getting more money. There… fixed it.

  1. September 2, 2019 at 9:37 pm

    This idea was attempted in Texas – perhaps researching to see how it turned out will help clear up why it’s just not that simple. . .

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