Arne Duncan was far from popular among many US teachers during his seven years as secretary of education, thanks to controversial policies from increased testing to charter schools.
But his latest comments – made during an exclusive interview with TES magazine – can be expected to win praise from across the profession.
Mr Duncan, who stepped down from the federal government in January, thinks that good teachers should be paid more. And not just a little bit more.
He argues that good teachers should be paid as much as $150,000 a year. In the US, that could mean a major jump in pay. And he believes that principals should earn $250,000.
He told TES that teachers were paid too little because their work was “undervalued”. And he said that even £100,000 was still not enough.
“We’re not even close to [paying the amount that] teachers deserve for the hard, complex, hugely important work they do; we’re not in the game,” he said. “For me, a great teacher in the United States should make $150,000, absolutely. A great principal, $250,000.
“[If] you think about talent in other sectors, in the business sector, the legal sector, the medical sector, I could make an argument that they’re still underpaid at that point.
“I think we undervalue the profession,” he continued.
Mr Duncan told the Global Education and Skills Forum, held in Dubai last month, that in Washington, DC a “great young teacher” aged about 30 could earn about $100,000. “That’s a big deal,” he said. “That attracts and retains talent at a different level.”
But, Mr Duncan also said high salaries for teachers would have to be part of a “grand bargain” that would include more accountability and asking the best teachers to work in the most disadvantaged communities.
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