Dive Brief:

  • The disparity between teachers’ salaries and those of other industries remains high despite some slight improvement last year. In 2019, teachers made 19.2% less than their nonteaching peers who had similar experience and education, an improvement of 2.8% from the year before when teachers made 22% less, according to research from the Economic Policy Institute.
  • For teachers, this “wage penalty” has grown substantially from a regression-adjusted 6% in 1996, and while recent improvement has come in the wake of teacher strikes, it is too soon to tell how much of an impact the strikes will have in the long term.
  • For female teachers, the wage penalty is 13.2%, while male teachers make 30.2% less than college graduates in other professions. However, while teacher pay is lower, the industry offers slightly better benefits than other industries, with benefits making up 29.3% of the compensation for teachers compared to 21.4% of compensation in other industries, the report said.

Dive Insight:

Lower wages make it difficult to attract new teachers to the profession, especially males, who make up only 25% of the educator workforce. And the pay discrepancies can vary drastically by state. In Colorado, for example, teachers only made about 65% of what their college-educated peers earned, according to a Learning Policy Institute report issued in 2018.

In that report, the Learning Policy Institute suggested loan forgiveness, service scholarships, teacher residency programs and induction programs could help end teacher shortages. Additional research by the organization found 100,000 classes began in fall 2017 either with teachers who weren’t adequately certified or lacked adequate experience.

Over the last few years, teachers have gone on strike in several states for more pay, improved classroom conditions and increased education spending. In some districts, these efforts have made a positive impact on teachers’ salaries. For example, teacher strikes are credited with increasing salaries by an average of 18% in 14 districts in Washington state in 2018.

The threat of acquiring coronavirus and the stress of teaching remotely, however, could further compound teacher shortages. A third of teachers who responded to a survey conducted by Hart Research Associates say they are likely to leave the profession or take early retirement. Of those who say they may leave the industry, 45% are over the age of 50, 44% have more than 20 years of experience and 42% live in the South.

The survey also found around 60% of teachers reported being uncomfortable starting the school year with in-person classes. A Kaiser Family Foundation study found 24% of teachers are at greater risk of serious illness if infected with coronavirus.

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