New report: Teacher wages and compensation continue to fall

College graduates who choose teaching earn less than peers in other fields, a pay penalty that is increasing.

A new report compares teacher wages to those earned by other college graduates. While teaching once compared favorably, these updated findings will not surprise public school teachers: They are losing ground in salary.

The Economic Policy Institute report also sounds an alarm for future staffing of schools:

The supply of teachers is diminishing at every stage of the career ladder. On the front end, fewer students are entering the profession. Generally speaking, the small fraction of the most cognitively skilled college students who elect to become teachers has declined for decades (Corcoran, Evans, and Schwab 2004). Several factors have helped to drive this trend. Over the long run, employment opportunities for women have greatly expanded, and thus the teaching profession can no longer rely on what was a somewhat captive labor pool. At the same time, teachers are less satisfied and more stressed as standardized testing has been elevated as a tool for student, school, and teacher evaluations.

The report notes:

In 1979 teachers earned 21.4 percent less than other college graduates. The gap between teachers and other college graduates narrowed into the mid-1990s but then widened considerably during the tight labor markets of the late 1990s into the early 2000s. There was a 53 percent jump in wages for non-teacher college graduates from 1979 to 2002 during an unusual recent time of exceptional wage growth. This was a time when inflation-adjusted wages grew strongly among low-, middle-, and high-wage earners—but this was not the case for teachers. This is due to the long-term contracts teachers have and the fact that public-sector wages are not as volatile (both up and down) as private-sector wages. The gap has been fairly consistent throughout the 2000s; teachers’ wages slightly declined, as did wages for other college graduates. In 2015 the teacher wage disadvantage compared with other college graduates was 22.8 percent, or $323 per week—substantially higher than the 13.1 percent disadvantage in 1996.

“Teachers today earn 17 percent less than workers with similar qualifications — skyrocketing from just a 1.8 percent difference in 1994. Even worse, the gap is bigger for more experienced teachers, meaning that the more expertise teachers develop, the less they’re rewarded for it,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten in response to the report released Tueday.

“This report is a scathing indictment of how this country values educators. It highlights the hypocrisy of paying lip service to the importance of teaching and teachers while simultaneously failing to invest in educators, students and the schools in which they teach and learn,” Weingarten said. “When you shortchange educators, you shortchange the students they teach. We need to ensure educators are valued so we can recruit the best and brightest to the classroom. We need to make sure they’re supported and paid like the professionals they are.’’

Here is an EPI chart that shows the widening pay penalty.

 

epichart

Here is the official release, but take a look at the report as it is quite interesting:

In The teacher pay gap is wider than ever, Economic Policy Institute President Lawrence Mishel and UC Berkeley economist and EPI research associate Sylvia Allegretto find that teacher’s wages and compensation continue to fall relative to comparable workers.

When adjusted for education, experience, and demographic factors, teachers earned 1.8 percent less than other workers in 1994, while in 2015 the teacher wage penalty had grown to 17 percent.

Although teachers on average enjoy better benefits packages than similar workers, Mishel and Allegretto find that benefits only mitigate part of the wage gap. Including benefits, teachers are still left with a record-high 11.1 percent compensation gap compared to similar workers.

“In order to recruit and retain talented teachers, school districts should be paying them more than their peers,” said Mishel. “Instead, teachers face low wages, high levels of student debt, and increasing demands on the job. Eliminating the teacher pay penalty is crucial to building the teacher workforce we need.”

Collective bargaining does abate part of the wage gap. Teachers benefiting from collective bargaining have a wage gap 6 percentage points less than teachers who are nonunion.

“Once again, unions prove their importance in protecting teachers from a much larger pay gap,” said Allegretto. “For women, especially, being a member of a teacher’s union can have a major impact on earnings.”

The growing wage penalty for teachers has contributed to an insufficient supply of teachers at every stage of the career ladder. A recent study showed that only 5 percent of college-bound students were interested in education. Moreover increased pressure from testing, state budget cuts, and demand for smaller class sizes has put strains on retaining sufficient mid-career teachers.

Other key findings include:

•Since 1996, teacher pay has decreased $30 per week (from $1,222 to $1,092 in 2015.) In this same time period, college graduates’ average weekly wages have increased from $1,292 to $1,416 in 2015.

•Experienced teachers have felt the erosion in pay more than entry-level teachers. In 1996, the most experienced teachers enjoyed a pay premium of +1.9 percent. In 2015, it had fallen to a pay penalty of -17.8 percent.

•The wage penalty has grown remarkably among women. In 1960, female teachers earned 14.7 percent more than comparable female workers. However, in 2015, the authors find a -13.9 percent wage gap for female teachers.

•The wage penalty for male teachers is much larger. The male teacher wage gap was -22.1 percent in 1979 and improved to 15.0 percent in the mid-1990s, but worsened in the late 1990s into the early 2000s. It stood at 24.5 percent in 2015.

 

Reader Comments 0

54 comments
Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

When the authors of the report describe the wage variance as a "teacher wage penalty", then you have read all you need to know about the inherent bias of the report.


There are a couple of glaring errors in this report.  

1.  They said they compared the "weekly salary".  A teacher's salary is typically the annual salary divided by the number of months.  The "weekly" salary does not factor the actual number of days worked per year.  Therefore, the "weekly salary" is actually based on a 190 day workday year.   Compare that to outside jobs that base their salary on a 260 workday year less holidays and vacation.  Typically, the actual number of workdays for an outside job is around 235-240.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a teacher in metro Atlanta is $55400.  Factor in the number of actual days worked and that salary would equal an outside salary of $68400.  Since the authors mentioned a 6% "benefit premium", that would increase this figure to about $72000.

2.  Teachers often get full retirement benefits after thirty years of service whereas a typical worker in corporate America has to work to age 65 or so.   If your more experienced teachers are retiring after thirty years and are replaced by new teachers, then the overall wages for teachers as a whole is reduced.


Finally, you want market based salaries?  Fine by me.  But be careful what you ask for.  No more automatic years of service x degree matrix.  No more premium salaries for diploma mill "doctorates".  The math and science teachers would probably get a raise.  The history teacher, kindergarten teacher, PE teacher?  Probably see their salaries go down.

southerntchr
southerntchr

No teacher works only 190 days a year. That's just all we get paid for. Full benefits? 60 % of my salary is not full.

Barb Greenberg
Barb Greenberg

I never went into teaching for the money. You have to really want to improve children's lives. Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. It is a tough job, much more difficult than most people believe. Part of teaching is being an actor, part social worker and part teacher.

JohnGMorris
JohnGMorris

It is simple economics.  Jobs that pay well will attract more people.  Some might also have missed the part of about women being part of a captive labor pool. In the past, many talented women that had no where else to go became teachers.  Education benefited, but at a cost.  That is no longer the case.  So, under these circumstances one would not expect teaching to attract as many of the best and the brightest when there are better paying opportunities elsewhere.


Moreover, those with STEM degrees can often expect a starting salary twice that of an entry level teacher.  Summers off is a nice perk, but one still has to support one's self and possibly a family -- not a lot of 9 week jobs that pay $1100 a week out there.  And let's not forget that college costs are outrageous and one can't teach without a college education.


Teachers that remain in the profession may do so for a variety of reasons, but for those that have put in quite a few years in, a defined benefit pension is a compelling reason to stay.


Ultimately, if you want to attract and retain talented people to the teaching profession, the profession needs to pay a competitive wage and offer a good working environment.  Both are often lacking.  Teaching is no different than any other profession; it's governed by the same economics.


Of course, paying competitive salaries is impossible given how we deliver education and the tax revenue with which we have to work.  That's the other bit of economics at work (i.e., I am not in favor of raising taxes, paying higher wages, and continuing to do the same things we are doing now).  The only way we will be able to pay competitive wages to teachers is by figuring out how to deliver a high quality education with a smaller number of highly talented, highly motivated educators.

Wendy Stewart
Wendy Stewart

Just like teachers go to college to "learn" to teach, they can go back to school or learn to do something that pays more...and many of them do! When I started out in education 36 yrs ago, it was a respected field...now the teaching and education fields leave a lot to be desired.

Shira Newman
Shira Newman

Well it would seem to say there are more teachers than spots to fill.

Tricia Parker
Tricia Parker

Teacher pay is based on number of days worked in contract period. Then divided up so they get a paycheck for 12 months. Believe me they are not getting paid for any extra hours no matter how many more they work. Retired teacher!

Tricia Vasquez
Tricia Vasquez

Not to mention the obligatory meetings before and after school that last well past our contracted hours.

Renee Lord
Renee Lord

Who funds the Economic Policy Group? I would be less suspicious of data reporting pay per day worked rather than by week as it's impossible to determine if the average is of 52 weeks or the actual number of school weeks worked. #followthemoney

Renee Lord
Renee Lord

I believe many working a traditional year round schedule in other professional fields may have issue with this measure. Is it possible that teacher salary is falling because there is an increase in the number of longer term teachers leaving the profession and more teachers with less experience entering the profession? I'm just curious. No one likes to see their profession's salaries not keeping up with average salaries.

AJC  Get Schooled
AJC Get Schooled

Here is the explanation of how work time was measured: Our analysis of the relative wage of teachers relies on comparisons of weekly earnings, and not on annual or hourly earnings as analyzed by some researchers. As discussed in our prior work, we elect to use weekly wages to avoid measurement issues regarding differences in annual weeks worked (teachers’ traditional “summers off”) and the number of hours worked per week that arise in many studies of teacher pay. It is often noted that the annual earnings of teachers cannot be directly compared with those of non-teachers, given that teachers are typically only contracted to work a nine-month year. But differences arise over exactly how much time teachers devote to their position outside of their nine contracted months of teaching—and they are afforded little time off during the teaching year compared with other professionals. Teachers also spend some of their summer months in class preparation, professional development, or other activities expected of a professional teacher. Similarly, attempts to compare the hourly pay of teachers and other professionals have resulted in considerable controversy by setting off an unproductive debate about the number of hours teachers work at home versus other professionals.8 Importantly, decisions regarding pay interval (weekly, annual, or hourly) become mostly irrelevant when considering changes in relative pay over time. Changes in relative wages can be expected to be similar as long as the relative work time (between teachers and comparable professionals) remains constant.9

Melanie D. Rosen
Melanie D. Rosen

Experience is only one item that raises a teacher's salary. Advanced degrees do that as well, and since the daily expectations of workload for educators has increased at a scary rate since 2000, time and energy to pursue those degrees is being sacrificed to a gaping wound of bureaucracy that continues to treat this sacred and fundamental American profession as a business. Experience is becoming even rarer in the field as many of the strongest pillars have left broken, exhausted, or entirely too frustrated with the system to perform the work they once cherished. Separately, I have sincere appreciation and thanks for folks who bring an objective and thoughtful point of view to the plight of the educator, the parent, and the student as this column so often does. Thank you, ma'am. :-)

Kate Maloney
Kate Maloney

AJC Get Schooled excellent explanation of the measurement tool. Can I use it in my Research class, which is currently learning validity and reliability in scientific research?

Starik
Starik

Perhaps we could start a Federal certification process for teachers, with meaningful testing. 

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

@Starik We had that option with National Board Certification, but our wonderful leaders voted to take that away - going back on contracts they had with many, many teachers.  

Starik
Starik

The teaching profession is loaded with college graduates in easy majors, at easy colleges, at the bottom of their class.

13Directors
13Directors

@Starik That is absurd, but I'm red weather, prove your point with a legitimate citation. 

Starik
Starik

@redweather @Starik Not right now - I've read it in several places over the years. Maybe later tonight I'll look for them online. 

Starik
Starik

@redweather Google "teachers bottom third" for a number of articles. "Worst teachers in poorest schools" is also worth a google. What I'd love to see is a study of the metro Atlanta school systems - which colleges were attended? Which online advanced degree programs to bump salaries. Like everything on the internet you can find citations to support any position, but I have had experiences in DeKalb with teachers who couldn't write or speak well, and judging from news reports the same is true for Atlanta.


Poor black children and new immigrants deserve excellent teachers; that's why Fulton offers a bonus to highly ranked teachers to teach in South Fulton.  Good, well prepared teachers should make more money. Bad, semi-literate teachers should lose their jobs. 


Construct a difficult, meaningful nationwide test to sort them out and reward the teachers who score high. Prohibit hiring teachers who score low..

cyadra
cyadra

@Starik Stanford University grad. 3.8 GPA Double Major in US History and Economics. you went to school where?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@cyadra @Starik And you teach in a "good school, with high test scores and low discipline problems".  With a major in US History, what do you teach, math?

Starik
Starik

@redweather @Starik 30% in the bottom third of SAT scores is acceptable? Not to me, and those seem to be New York numbers.

redweather
redweather

@Starik @redweather From the U.S. News and World Report article:

"For example, a detailed study of new teachers in New York state, published in December 2014 in Educational Researcher, found that at the worst point – in 1999 – almost 30 percent of new teachers came from the bottom third, as measured by SAT scores. Another thirty percent came from the top third. Ten years later, in 2010, the number of new teachers coming from the top third had risen dramatically, to more than 40 percent. And fewer than 20 percent of new teachers scored in the bottom third."

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Starik

"Like everything on the internet you can find citations to support any position".

Just letting you know that all citations have to be researched and evaluated to determine their worth. It takes time but helps one better understand complicated issues.

Ruth Zackowitz Hartman
Ruth Zackowitz Hartman

That is so strange. I wonder if it has anything to do with experienced teachers leaving the field in droves?

Renee Lord
Renee Lord

Are the teachers' salaries a weekly average of 52 weeks or the 40 or so weeks they actually work? Data is easily misinterpreted when key details are omitted. The way teachers are compensated must change to attract and retain highly skilled educators. When each is paid the same regardless of effort or outcome it lowers everyone's performance.

Angela Battaglia Dean
Angela Battaglia Dean

I believe there are studies that show pay for performance doesn't work in the field of education.

Shira Newman
Shira Newman

Pay for education isn't working either. Pay for performance would work ...Depends how it was done.

Lynn Nicolai Muench
Lynn Nicolai Muench

Renee, each district handles that differently. Some divide payments over the course of the school year, some use the calendar year, and some allow the employee to designate how their pay is allotted. Either way, the salary remains the same. It's an annual number; the data point doesn't change - no key detail is omitted. And what is it with you "pay for performance" types? I don't get to pay my dentist less if I don't brush my teeth; not sure why you think teachers should be responsible for variables beyond their control.

Bob Doty
Bob Doty

Apples and oranges to compare compensation between the public and private sector. One is supported by customers voluntarily purchasing goods and services and the other is supported by confiscatory taxation.

Surelyyoujest
Surelyyoujest

In doing the math with the figures supplied for 2015 I find it hard to believe that the "average" non-educator college grad earns approx. $73K per year....

trifecta_
trifecta_

It's the beginning of a new school year ... so here come the hard luck stories recycled yearly by the teachers' unions.

Get ready for dire predictions of teachers "leaving the profession in droves" or threats of school closings.

We'll know teacher pay and benefits aren't in line with their 9-month work schedule when:

  1. School districts are no longer inundated with qualified teaching applicants
  2. You don't keep seeing the same teachers' faces year after year at your local school's Parents Night
  3. All those nieces and nephews longing for a secure teaching position move on to other choices

Astropig
Astropig

@trifecta_



My favorite "citizen journalist"-Mike Antonucci- has been debunking this shortage narrative for several years over at EIA.


http://www.eiaonline.com/intercepts/2015/08/28/union-president-on-teacher-shortage-who-cares-what-the-data-says/#comments


Now, there probably is a real shortage of quality STEM teachers,because they have so many career paths open to them and they are not generally the kind of people to tolerate the internal,eternal,infernal politics of being a public school teacher.

JovanMiles
JovanMiles

1. There are teacher shortages all across the state and country.

2. Georgia is a non-Union state for teachers.

3. Georgia is losing teachers to overseas jobs.

4. The data and anecdotal evidence both show that college bound students do no want to become teachers.

13Directors
13Directors

@JovanMiles Yep. I'm a non-traditional student majoring in English, and I'm seeing this first hand. But I'm also seeing some passionate and incredibly bright students still choosing to teach.We should value their contribution and their efforts and compensate them appropriately. 

cyadra
cyadra

@Astropig @trifecta_ My school has 4 openings right now. 2 in hard to find fields, 2 in Social Studies. I am in a good school, with high test scores, and low discipline problems. Can't find anyone, want to apply?

class80olddog
class80olddog

You could pay teachers more if you cut out all the wasted money

class80olddog
class80olddog

Pay is only ONE reason people don't want to be teachers. Discipline is another. Of course it was left off the Georgia survey of teacher dissatisfaction

StanJester
StanJester

Maybe I missed something, but this study seems to compare teachers (generally tenured, pensioned and 9 month employees) to everyone else.  Annualized complete compensation comparisons would be useful.

class80olddog
class80olddog

I believe the study used weekly earnings while working to correct for the 9-month work year

redweather
redweather

@StanJester This is covered in the "Weekly Wage" section, but you obviously didn't read that far.

StanJester
StanJester

I saw that, but teachers are paid all year around and make X dollars every week.  If it accounted for that, it would have said their salaries were annualized to account for that and it didn't.  (No need to be snarky)

cyadra
cyadra

@StanJester Not all teachers are paid year round. Some get a big check at the end of the year. That doesn't really matter does it, you get what you don't pay for. But then again as a society, we don't care about our kids.

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

@StanJester  Yes, many of us are in systems that allow us to divide our salaries by 12 so that we receive a paycheck in the summer, but we are NOT paid for the summer months.