Kent Bonacki explains how stagnating wages are negatively impacting education
Around the country, education budgets are in trouble. When budgets are cut, students are no longer able to receive the same quality of education. Since society depends on the proper education of children, everyone loses when schools are not adequately funded.
Not many people realize that teacher wages have stagnated in this era of budget cuts. Teachers are no longer able to keep up with increases in the cost of living, and many teachers need to take on second and third jobs to make ends meet.
When teachers are forced to work outside of school, they have to give up all-important preparation and professional development time outside the classroom. Teachers who have other jobs cannot devote their full and complete attention to their students.
Kent Bonacki explains how stagnating teacher wages are having a serious impact on our educational system.
According to the National Education Association, average teacher salaries are down 4.5 percent over the past decade. There is a serious pay gap between teachers and professionals in other fields with similar levels of education and experience.
About 80 percent of public-school parents around the country agree that teachers are underpaid and want to raise their compensation. Unfortunately, people who perceive that they do not have a stake in education believe that teachers are paid well and that education budgets are not critical to the public.
Many areas around the country pay their teachers extremely low salaries. Several states have begun to put programs into place which will give a minimum salary for teachers. In New Mexico, this is budgeted at $41,000. In Idaho, new teacher salaries have been boosted from $35,800 to $40,000. Still, teachers with families may find that they are living at the poverty level.
The Effects of Outside Work
Since many teachers are so poorly paid, they often have to take jobs outside education in order to make ends meet. Teachers take on such low-paying jobs as pizza delivery drivers, rideshare drivers, and fast food employees. Teachers who have to work outside of school have less ability to keep up with their schoolwork, and they may be overtired and have difficulty maintaining control in the classroom as well.
Losing Quality Teachers
Stagnation in teacher salaries also has another serious impact on education. Many teachers are quitting classroom work in order to take part in more lucrative occupations. This is especially true in rural and underserved areas where hiring another teacher may not be so easy.
Teachers often do not want to leave their profession, but they feel as if they are being forced out by budget constraints and local governments which do not put an adequate value on education.
When teachers leave the workforce, they leave a gap behind them. Teacher experience is value-added, and a teacher with even a few years under their belt is an asset to any school system. Teacher vacancies being filled by inexperienced educators drive down the average salary of the entire district and cause student achievement to go down. Experienced teachers also reduce student absenteeism.
The latest data from 2015 states that 1 million teachers left their jobs. While some of these teachers stayed in education, others left the field entirely. 8 percent of teachers leave their profession each year.
The cost of turnover is another drain on city and state governments. Turnover can cost as much as one-half to five times the teacher’s annual salary. Taking this into consideration, cities and towns need to do more to keep their talented educators.
There are several possible solutions that could stem the tide of teacher departures. The simplest way to keep more teachers in the profession is to raise their salaries, but this is not always possible in today’s financial climate.
Most of the new teachers coming up through the educational system today are millennials. Millennials value fair compensation, but they are also attracted to occupations where they will have opportunities for growth and learning. Millennials want to have both a paycheck and a career with purpose.
Another way to find out why teachers are leaving is to perform an exit survey when they leave their jobs. This way, administrators will be able to find any common themes and work to fix the problem.
Engaging teachers in their work is probably the most effective and certainly the most cost-effective solution. Teachers are motivated by the satisfaction of educating and leading students. When teachers have greater job satisfaction, they will be less likely to give up on the profession.
Serious Problems for our Educational System
The stagnation of teacher wages presents a huge problem for our educational system. When teachers are not compensated adequately, they will look elsewhere for work. Even though they love their profession, sometimes they are not able to make ends meet while working in schools.
Bonacki reminds parents and administrators that the cost of having subpar teachers in the schools is far greater than the cost of paying them properly.