"Without our teachers, where would we be?" asked one reader.

With U.S. schools facing enormous pressure to improve, even as state and local budgets continue to evaporate, teacher compensation is the latest flashpoint in debates about education reform.

Though some critics argue that teachers are overpaid (see “Hey teachers: The Heritage Foundation thinks you’re overpaid”), many believe it’s just the opposite (see “Four fallacies of the ‘teachers are overpaid’ argument” and “Teachers facing low salaries opt to moonlight”).

To get our readers’ perspective, we recently asked: “What do you think teachers should be paid?” Here are some of the most thought-provoking responses (edited for brevity).

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

At least enough to make a living

“Really a tough question—in as much that (a) budgets are really tight these days and (b) so many systems are locked in via union contracts to pay increases based upon degree status and time on the job. So let’s start there: Increases should not be controlled in any way by time on the job—even if it is easy to determine. I believe teachers really can and ought to be made to provide a self-assessment of their efforts and the progress of their students, including their discussion of contributing circumstances associated with those efforts and progress made—with sample ‘data’ used in the assessment and with proposed individual changes believed to address needed improvement. That’s what professionals are expected to do, and teaching is and should be considered a profession.

“With that as input …, teacher base salaries should be comparable to that of other professionals such as engineers, accountants, speech/physical therapists, etc. I’m thinking about $60K in the northeast USA where I live. More importantly, there should be a significant merit pool (consistent with funds availability) … I really think, if asked, most good teachers would want a livable salary (no requirement for finding supplemental income) and then support to facilitate an enriching and challenging educational experience for their students—more than large salary increases. Good teachers, I believe, are intrinsically motivated far more than extrinsically motivated.” —John Bennett, Emeritus Professor / Associate Dean, University of Connecticut, Coventry, Conn.

Pay for the ‘overtime’

“An average work week for a teacher is around 55 hours. That is just for five days, not counting the weekend. … If an average teacher is being paid $35K for a 40-hour work week, who is paying the teacher to complete the extra [work from planning and grading] assignments? … [Also,] teachers have to pay for classes to stay current in teaching strategies and to keep their certificates. How many people have to pay for classes to keep a certificate?” —Jacki Kratz, classroom technology specialist, Sage Technology Solutions, Pa.