Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Teachers on the march

By Sylvia Allegretto

This CWED VIDEO SHORT puts trends in teacher pay into perspective.

Teacher strikes have brought much-needed attention to public education. Chronic under-funding has resulted in constant teacher shortages, outdated books, a lack of nurses and other staff, and lagging teacher pay in many school districts across the country. In this post I focus on trends in teacher pay. My partner Larry Mishel (Distinguished Fellow, Economic Policy Institute) and I have been writing about relative teacher pay for over fifteen years.

The strikes that occurred in the Spring of 2018 in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Colorado–most of them illegal–and actions thus far in 2019 in cities including Los Angeles, Oakland and Denver have raised the profile of deteriorating teacher pay as a critical public policy issue.

Teachers, parents and entire communities are protesting cutbacks in public education spending that persist well into the economic recovery that is now a decade in the making. These spending cuts are not the result of weak state economies. Rather, in many instances state legislatures have enacted them to help finance tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations.

The figure depicts the worsening pay gap that teachers face. It is no wonder that teacher turnover and shortages are at issue as it is becoming harder to recruit new college students into the profession and retain experienced ones. Opportunity costs do matter.

Providing teachers with a decent middle-class living commensurate with other professionals with similar education is not simply a matter of fairness. Effective teachers are the most important school-based determinant of student educational performance. Teaching should be a highly competitive and sought after profession–not one with declining pay and little respect. Our future depends on it.

“The Teacher Pay Penalty Has Hit a New High” (2018) by Allegretto & Mishel here.