The pay gap between teachers and other graduate professions has reached record levels, with experienced educators losing out the most, new research has found.
In 2015, public school teachers’ wages were 17 per cent lower than other comparable jobs – compared to just 1.8 per cent in 1994 – according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute think-tank.
Even when benefits were taken into account, which are usually generous in favor of teachers, their overall compensation was 11.1 per cent lower than other college graduates in 2015.
The findings come as concerns have been raised about the numbers of new teachers entering the profession and high staff turnover rates. Extra demands are also being placed on teachers with high-stakes performance standards for students.
“In light of these challenges, providing adequate wages and benefits is a crucial tool for attracting and keeping the teachers America’s children need,” the Economic Policy Institute report says.
The study finds that after adjusting for inflation, average weekly wages for teachers decreased by $30 a week between 1996 and 2015, down from $1,122 to $1,092 (in 2015 dollars). At the same time, the weekly wages of all college graduates rose from $1,292 to $1,416.
Male teachers suffered a bigger discrepancy than female colleagues, the report reveals, increasing from 15 per cent in the mid 1990s to 24.5 per cent last year. Female teachers on average earned 13.9 per cent than women in other graduate professions.
The report finds that the most experienced teachers earned 17.8 per cent less than workers in other graduate jobs.
There are also big differences according to which state teachers live in. Teachers in Arizona, for example earn 62.8 per cent of the average graduate wage, while in Wyoming they earn 98.6 per cent.
“If the policy goal is to improve the quality of the entire teaching workforce, then raising the level of teacher compensation, including wages, is critical to recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers,” the study concludes.
“Policies that solely focus on changing the composition of current compensation – eg. Merit or pay-for-performance schemes – without actually increasing compensation levels are unlikely to be effective.
“Simply put, improving overall teacher quality requires correcting the teacher compensation disadvantage.”
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