Welcome to the Profit of Education website. Continuing the conversation begun in the book Profit of Education, we discuss the latest economic evidence on education reform.

Hanushek on teacher salaries

I wrote last week about the fact that while spending on schools has gone up, the increased spending hasn’t gone into teacher salaries. Rick Hanushek was nice enough to send me a graphic that illustrates one important part of the tale. Hanushek, and coauthor Alfred Lindseth, figured out what happened to the (inflation-adjusted) salary of a typical teacher with three years experience over almost a decade, and then compared what could have happened with the same spending on teacher salaries if pupil-teacher ratios had remained constant.

Roughly, salaries rose 1 percent a year when they could have risen 2 percent a year. In any one year, not a big deal. But over a decade it matters a lot.

Source: Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses. Republished with permission.

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3 Responses to Hanushek on teacher salaries

  1. Dave Larson says:

    I completely agree with you on the proposals to cut the bonus pay for Board certified teachers. I am a school board member and have been lobbying the legislature heavily to maintain those bonuses. It is particularly unconscionable to cut those bonuses for teachers working in “challenging” schools with high percentages of low income and ELL students. I will also note that in my district, over 20% of our teachers are Board certified, so it is not just a few. Since almost all our schools are “challenging”, there is a powerful incentive for our staff to get certified.

  2. Dave Larson says:

    One problem I have with many of the teacher salary studies, including the one in Profit of Education, is that they only look at base salary and not what they actually get paid. For example in my district in Washington state, a teacher with 6 years experience, a bachelor’s degree plus 45 credit hours, has a base salary of $43,591, using the 2008-2009 salary schedule. However in my district they also get $6,330 in TRI pay (given for time spent in addition to the straight classroom time), a $700 longevity payment, and a $1,200 classroom enhancement payment that may be taken as straight salary. That is another 19% on top of $43,591. In addition, if they are Board certified and teach at one of our challenging schools, they get another $11,000 ($5,000 for Board certified, $5,000 for teaching at challenging school and $1,000 from the district for being Board certified). So that raised the pay to $62,821 which is 44% above the base pay. So there you have your 40% raise.

    I am not opposed to more pay for teachers if the system has more incentives for quality work, but I don’t think the current pay levels are as bad as many people make them out to be.

    • dstartz says:

      You make a very important point, even though I don’t agree with all you say. First, I entirely agree that looking at base pay alone would be a mistake. For example, according to the Digest of Education Statistics average base pay for a Washington State teacher with a bachelors and 6-10 years of experience in 2007-08 was $42,380. Estimated annual salary (not just base) was $49,884. That’s a difference, but not a huge one. I suspect part of the difference from the numbers you present is that some of the bonus items, being Board certified is an example, go to relatively few teachers.

      In all the research I’m familiar with, people try to use complete salaries rather than base pay. (Having said that, education finance data is lousy. I wouldn’t be shocked if some items get missed.)

      At a deeper level, whatever we’re paying teachers simply isn’t enough to attract as many top people as we need. That’s the real test.

      Having said that, Washington State is at this very moment talking about cutting out some of the very pay items you identify. The one I find most shocking is killing the bonus for Board certified teachers. So I wish that the state’s politicians would read your comment and be reminded of the crucial point that total compensation is definitely the thing to look at.

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