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Is Low Teacher Pay Damaging the Profession’s Appeal?

Topics: Career Profiles
teacher pay

Would you be interested in working as a public school teacher? Does low teacher pay impact your decision?

Teachers are paid far less than other professionals. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), teachers currently earn 18.7 percent less than peers with similar education and skills.

Not surprisingly, this is taking a toll on the profession’s appeal. New research from PDK on the public’s attitude toward the public schools indicates that while people still respect the profession of teaching, they view this work as low-paid and undervalued. That could be drawing folks away from the work.

Here’s what you need to know:

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Most people believe in raising teacher Pay

This research suggests that most Americans feel that teacher compensation should be increased. The study found that 73 percent would support teachers who went on strike for higher pay. And, only 6 percent of folks reported feeling that teacher salaries in their community were too high. A mere 27 percent felt that their salaries were about right. But, one in three respondents, 66 percent, said that teacher compensation in their area was too low.

The results of this survey also suggest that Americans understand that low teacher pay is an issue. Nine percent of respondents specifically mentioned teacher salaries when asked to identify the biggest problem facing public schools. Another 26 percent said that funding issues more broadly constituted the biggest challenge.

Most see Teaching as important and respectable work 

The profession of teaching is usually thought of as a respectable one. Still, many understand that teacher pay is relatively low. People also seem to know that this work is important. A Harris Interactive poll from 2009, which was presented by Forbes, found that 51 percent of respondents felt that teachers had “very great prestige.” Another 22 percent though they had considerable levels of prestige. Overall, teachers ranked 6th behind just firefighters, scientists, doctors, nurses and military officers.

Still, most parents don’t want their child to teach

This new research finds that low teacher pay may be turning people away from the profession, despite the fact that teaching is seen as a valued and respected job. Fifty-four percent of parents say they would not want their own child to pursue public school teaching as a career. This was the first time that the majority of parents said that they wouldn’t want their child to go into teaching since these researchers began asking this question in 1969. Then, 75 percent of parents said they would be happy to learn that their child was pursuing a teaching career.

Parents mentioned inadequate pay and benefits most often when they were asked why they would not want their child to go into teaching.

The compensation gap is only growing wider

Unfortunately, despite recent teacher strikes across the country, the teacher compensation gap is wider than ever. The EPI found that the average weekly wages of public school teachers, when adjusted for inflation, decreased $27 from 1996 to 2017. However, the average weekly wages of college grads rose $137 during that time.

Low teacher pay is damaging the appeal of this essential profession. The reality is that this doesn’t just hurt teachers, current or prospective. It hurts students. It impacts their future as well as the future of the entire country in turn.

Tell Us What You Think

Would higher teacher pay impact your desire to work as a teacher? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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