How much should teachers be paid?

You get what you pay for

“I think it is important to say that any system of education that pays its teachers so little that they are forced to work in second jobs simply to meet daily living expenses is not only neglecting the professional needs of its employees, who should be able to bring the whole of their professional focus to bear on their chosen occupation, but neglecting the educational benefit of the students entrusted to its care. Who, for example, would trust a solicitor or barrister who had to work as a barman to supplement his income? Wouldn’t we make a judgment of him as being professionally incompetent?” —Matthew Wood, head of English, Australia

“If you’re lucky, you get what you pay for. Over the last half century, salary issues have determined where the best and the brightest students work for a living. If you want smart, motivated teachers, you have to pay them. Teaching is a career, not a religious vocation.” —John Hunter, retired educator

It’s a matter of perception

A person’s salary is a symbol of their perceived value in society. A low salary is indicative of a society that doesn’t value their services, while a higher salary means they have a more important and respected role in the community. People in any profession are highly motivated by the extent to which they feel their services are valued and needed by society. Commensurate with societal value are societal expectations. With higher salary comes higher expectations for performance, while lower salaries may cause some teachers to use the excuse that they aren’t getting paid enough to make it worth the stress and misery they have to endure. Higher salaries also provide a better justification for terminating those teachers who clearly fail to meet standards. With higher salaries will come a larger pool of talented candidates to make it easier to ferret out unqualified, inferior teachers. Taxpayer complaints about additional money going into schools should be offset by clearly measured and visible gains in student performance and motivation resulting from better teaching.” —Charles G. Geller, M.A. Education, California State University Long Beach

“Recruiting the best and the brightest to light up young minds and create the educated citizens we deserve in this country needs to be fairly compensated. I believe that compensating teachers in the $70K range and up is an investment in our future. We need to make teaching as a profession something to be coveted and desired like engineering, law, medicine, and finance. Good teachers make all the rest of our economy possible by creating the talent, innovation, and industry we are so desperate for in our country today.” —Gail Barraco, administrative coordinator, Eastern Suffolk BOCES School Library System, Education and Information Support Services, Bellport, N.Y.

Consider the stress

“I think teacher pay should be around $40,000 to start and increase after that based on years of service and other criteria that might include additional degrees, duties, or accomplishments. Very few people have a clear understanding of the stress of dealing with students in the classroom. Management of 30+ people in one small area for 60-90 minutes in most high schools is not a small feat. Effective teachers must then provide grades, feedback, and communication with parents for these students, usually 120-160 people per day. It is very easy to make examples of lazy or less than stellar teachers and use this as a justification for lowering teacher pay. Most teachers put in 10- to 12-hour days doing school work, regardless of the location at home or school.” —Yvonne Stuart, media specialist, Hutchings High School

Meris Stansbury

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