A school in Kansas is looking for a band director and as part of the Facebook post to attract teachers they posted the salary schedule. This then fell into a huge debate about teacher pay and comments such as:
I had multiple people posting their salary schedules to show either how much better they had it or how much worse they had it. Definitely, many of these are flat out NOT GOOD. However, we are not comparing apples to apples. Comparing schools is very complex. So I made a spreadsheet. (Hands down he most unsurprising things you will hear from me.) The bottom line after making this spreadsheet and reading comments from teachers across the country is… TEACHER PAY IS STUPID.
Table of Contents
30 Years Are You Kidding Me?
First, in theory we all get a raise every year if the school is giving at least a COLA adjustment. A raise is a raise from what you were expecting. We are brainwashed to think that steps on the pay scale is a “raise.” You are just not getting your full pay for THIRTY YEARS! This mental psychology that you might have a hope of a liveable middle class lifestyle SOME DAY for few years before you retire is just one of the ways that the teaching profession is toxic. There are many great things about teaching but I doubt you would find many people who would put “pay” as one of them.
It is my opinion that the system is designed to trap you in. Like indentured servants. One of the reasons I left my last district was because they will impose a 15% salary penalty on you if you resign after June 11th. WHAT?! Because teacher salary schedules are over 30 years (25 to 45 years) and there is this dumb culture of “we don’t take all of your years if you move districts” then you are essentially trapped at a school. No matter how bad the culture has become. If you leave you will lose a lot of money. Plus your benefits and retirement. After you sign your initial teaching contract there must be someone cackling with an evil laugh at the district office that “they got you.”
If we want what is best for kids then forcing people to be at a school they don’t want to be at is not it. Where is the incentive for a school to provide a reasonable working environment?
One school I didn’t teach at the teachers were ending up with 12 minutes for lunch. TWELVE MINUTES. I think we can all point to many situations where the school is in a bind for one reason or another and somehow the solution seems to frequently fall to the teachers having to take the brunt of it. (Admin gets pooped on a lot of time, no question about that. That is a blog post for another day.) With the churn of admin it is a different situation year to year. Sometimes you get a great admin and other times you just want to run away screaming. But you can’t. You’re trapped. “I just need to stick it out for 3 more years.” I hear this phrase, or something like it, quite often.
Not only are you trapped into a school with this 30 years pay scale but property taxes play a big part in what that pay scale says. So teacher pay, and availability of support materials, varies WIDELY within the same state. You can’t even compare state to state, it’s county to county. Funding schools with property taxes is another reason that teacher pay is stupid.
Cost of Living
If you teach in San Francisco you might EVENTUALLY make $110,000 a year. That sounds pretty awesome if you live in the midwest.
However, dirt with no house on it will run you $100,000 and a 3 bedroom condo is over half a million dollars.
How Much is Your Mortgage or Rent Taking of Your Paycheck?
If you have to pay a lot more for your rent then your ability to buy groceries is less. Oh, and groceries are a lot more expensive in San Francisco too. So you need to take into consideration the price of housing as well as the cost of living index on other items such as gas.
You should definitely fact check these numbers. I used Google Bard to come up with cost of living indexes for each state and then individual cities. Based on personal experience I think this cost of living index of 173.3 for San Francisco is incorrect. This says it is only 73% more expensive in SF than the national average. This source says it is 244. I updated my spreadsheet to reflect this higher amount after fact checking Google Bard. (Moral, ALWAYS fact check AI or any source for that matter)
This cost of living index is how much more expensive it is to live in a place in comparison to the national average. If the number is less than 100, it is cheaper to live there. More than 100, more expensive.
I asked Google Bard (is this a source? How exactly do you cite an AI bot that makes stuff up???)
The average national income of a person with a college degree is $67,860 per year. This is significantly higher than the average national income of a person without a college degree, which is $36,600 per year.
So I asked Bard about teachers.
According to the National Education Association, the average salary for a public school teacher in the United States was $65,090 in 2021. This is up from $63,645 in 2020. The average salary varies depending on the state, with teachers in Massachusetts earning the highest average salary at $91,644 and teachers in Mississippi earning the lowest average salary at $44,717.
I have updated my assumption of average teacher salary in my spreadsheet so you can see what you would need to earn in each state to be COMPARABLE. Not better. For example, if you’re making $101,000 in Alaska you might think you’re doing pretty good but that would be the same as making $63,645 in an “average” state.
On this Kansas salary schedule a starting pay of $40,000 and a maximum of $61,340 after 26 years would be comparable to $46,136 and $70,750. A Kansas school district a few hours away has a min of $45,000 and a max of $82,825. However, adjusting for cost of living that is $50,336 and $92,645.
Masters Degrees Are Expensive
“Research on the impact of a teacher’s level of education on their effectiveness in the classroom has been mixed. Some studies have found that teachers with master’s degrees perform better than those with only a bachelor’s degree, while others have found little to no difference in effectiveness.”-ChatGPT (again, is an AI chatbot a source???? See the bottom for the full text from ChatGPT)
Looking at this salary schedule the district expects that after teaching for 13 years you have to have a masters degree to keep progressing on the salary schedule. Not only is it a lot of money to get a masters degree, it is a significant amount of time for a teacher who doesn’t have time. My understanding is that it is mixed as to if this actually guarantees better teachers. Is the masters degree the REASON a great teacher is great? I doubt it.
If you are looking at the top pay in a district after 30 years and it assumes you have a masters degree don’t forget to factor in the money, student loan interest, and time it took to get that.
If we look back to the days of the one room schoolhouse the norm of paying teachers a wage that didn’t allow them to live on their own was established.
“They were not paid very much and usually boarded with the family of one of their students, sometimes even having to share a bed with them. They also had some strict rules to abide by“
While there have been some improvements sitting down to rethink how the teacher system is structured is obviously in need. Teachers have finally had enough of the low pay and ridiculous requirements. If you’re not being paid a lot at least the work environment should be awesome.
Flatten the Pay Scale
Looking at what you might make your last year in a district is not a comparable number. You earn that much for very little of your career.
I added a sheet to the spreadsheet taking one of the salary schedules and what might be a progression a teacher makes across and down the salary schedule. This is 1.3 million dollars over 26 years of teaching. (1.46 million if you factor in cost of living.) This is an average of $50,484 a year.
According to that pay scale if you never got your masters degree you would earn 1.2 million over 26 years for an average of $47,243.
Flattening the payscale this way costs the district exactly the same amount over 26 years. However, it gives you a MUCH CLEARER view of how much money your job as a teacher actually pays you.
It LOOKS like you are making less money, but you’re making exactly the same money.
This is why teacher salary schedules are stupid. It is a psychological trick to make you think your job is paying you $60,000 to $100,000 when you are definitely not. You have to take into account all the years you made $40,000.
Getting your average money sooner allows you to INVEST that “extra” money and make it worth more. Getting it in the sunset of your life… not worth as much.
Post the Cost of Living Index
Google search “Cost of living index in ___” for your town. Now take the salary you make and DIVIDE it by the index. This gives you a COMPARABLE number. Comparing the salaries of individuals in New Jersey and Kansas is not an apples-to-apples comparison. After reviewing a bunch of salary schedules from across the country it is clear that some places effectively make LESS even though the pay difference can be as much as $60,000.
At the top of each salary schedule should be a Cost of Living adjustment to show what the average salary is in comparable numbers. This will force districts to really evaluate how they compete with salaries.
You should receive additional compensation if you perform additional tasks. This is already kind of a thing, but so much is lumped under “other duties as assigned” so not only are you not paid for them, you might be doing work outside of school hours.
Ditch “Other duties as assigned.”
If you work harder there should be ways to be rewarded for that. What are the basic requirements? THEN, when you make that list of tasks determine if it is reasonable to complete them consistently during work hours? We all know that the current list of “that is your job” is not doable during work hours. Clearly delineate what is the job of a teacher. Make sure this task list is REASONABLE to complete during contract hours. Anything that is not explicitly on this list should be optional and paid.
Normalize Working During Work Hours
The current norm is working before school, lunch break, after school, nights, weekends, and holidays. I HAVE GRADED PAPERS ON CHRISTMAS! There is a cultural badge of honor for sacrificing time with your family.
More Planning Time
Recently ChatGPT and a load of AI products suddenly became the norm. Many of the assignments teachers give were almost instantly made obsolete. How will overworked tired teachers have time to rethink and innovate their assignments? This is not an easy or fast thing to adapt to. The last time there was an all of a sudden event (COVID) that forced everyone to rethink how they taught overnight it caused teachers to quit!
Teachers need more than 3 PD days a year. To keep up with technology, changes to the standards, current research on grading practices, and time to explore best practices it needs to be ongoing.
Change the School Schedule
This is probably an unpopular opinion but 185 days doesn’t cut it. With the amount of planning, collaboration, grading, professional development, etc… that needs to be done by a teacher you can’t do it all on a schedule created because of the harvest. Times have changed, this can’t be a sacred cow. Teachers need 3 months break to recover from overworking themselves and sacrificing all their spare time during the school year.
Most teachers undeniably work a full years hours during the 10 months contract. Anyone who wants to mention “summer vacation” in teacher pay is incredibly ignorant to how the school system works.
No Second Jobs
I doubt this is controversial. Teachers should NOT need to work a 2nd job to make ends meet.
A teacher is a professional. They have a college degree and at least an extra year of schooling with an unpaid internship (stop that too, pay them). If you have advanced education you shouldn’t be having to live in your parents basement or rely on your spouse making more money.
Obviously part of my plan for reform is to flat out just pay teachers more money. That is on the state legislature. The current “teacher shortage” will not improve without states realizing that pay and work conditions MUST IMPROVE. Lawmakers need to do a basic effort of sitting down to put together a budget for their state on what the pay has to be to be comfortable, not necessarily rich.
I saw that the Kansas legislature gave themselves a raise. Must be nice. (My next proposal is that all pay raises for politicians should be voter approved.)
“Lawmakers have told stories of working a range of part-time jobs to make ends meet, while others who have left the body said they did so because it couldn’t pay enough to make for a sustainable lifestyle.”
THUS, in response to some lawmakers needing to get a 2nd job THEY GAVE THEMSELVES MORE MONEY!! Same logic should apply to teachers. If your teachers need to get a 2nd job, shame on you state legislature. Increase funding for teacher pay.
Get rid of the teacher pension. It’s a political football. Pay into the same retirement system like everyone else. This way, if you decide to stop teaching, you won’t be trapped. And if you choose to teach as a second career, your retirement won’t be severely penalized.
Some teachers accept low pay because of the retirement. Let’s not pretend you can’t have a good retirement if the system changes.
Masters Degree is a Stipend
I have a masters degree. I got a lot out of it. However, teachers should not be bottomed out after a decade because they didn’t get one. If we value masters degrees as a profession, which we seem to do, then provide an annual stipend that makes it worth the time and money. These 10 columns on a salary schedule is stupid. What other professions have these weird salary schedules of a massive chart?
Note, I am suggesting making the salary schedule much less convoluted and easier to compare district to district. I am not disparaging education.
From ChatGPT on Teaching Quality with a Masters Degree
Research on the impact of a teacher’s level of education on their effectiveness in the classroom has been mixed. Some studies have found that teachers with master’s degrees perform better than those with only a bachelor’s degree, while others have found little to no difference in effectiveness.
A few key points from the research include:
- Subject-specific master’s degrees: Studies have shown that teachers with a master’s degree in their specific subject area may be more effective at teaching that subject. For example, a teacher with a master’s degree in mathematics may be more effective at teaching math than a teacher with only a bachelor’s degree in the same subject.
- Pedagogy-focused master’s degrees: Teachers with a master’s degree focused on pedagogy or teaching methods may have a positive impact on student learning. These degrees can provide teachers with additional skills and strategies for classroom management and instruction, which can contribute to their effectiveness.
- Experience and professional development: Research has shown that a teacher’s experience and ongoing professional development can have a more significant impact on their effectiveness than simply holding a master’s degree. Teachers with more experience often have a better understanding of their subject matter and are better equipped to address the diverse needs of their students.
- School context: The relationship between a teacher’s level of education and their effectiveness can be influenced by factors such as school resources, class size, and the socio-economic background of the students. In some cases, the benefits of having a master’s degree may be more pronounced in certain school settings.
In summary, while having a master’s degree may be associated with some benefits in terms of teaching effectiveness, it is not a guarantee. Other factors, such as a teacher’s experience, ongoing professional development, and the school context, can also play a significant role in their overall effectiveness in the classroom.
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Teacher Pay is Stupid
How the system compensates teachers is different than corporate structures. It is crazy how large the grid is for some districts. The longer it takes for you to make your maximum salary the less money you make. You want to get to the top of the salary schedule faster. Not over 30 years. The first few years you’re new and you’re learning. But after that… why the difference in pay?
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