For many years, educators have been asking for increases in pay. Many educators across the country have been accustom to taking second, third, or summer jobs just to make ends meet for years. Hence, teachers for a long time have decried pay increases and equitable pay compatible to maintaining a sufficient standard of living. Luckily, their voices have not gone unheard, as they decry pay increases equitable to meeting their local standards of living, NEA and other organizations are backing their pleas 100%. NEA, (National Education Association), have featured many articles during past recent years discussing this topic. As a matter of fact, NEA has established professional pay as one of their national platforms for educator professional equality.
Comparable to other professions, teachers are routinely characterized as having a low paying job relative to the duties of their own work. In addition, the teaching profession has one of the largest attrition rates with over half of the new teaching force leaving the profession within the first five years. NEA is advocating a $40,000 a year starting salary for all prek-12 teachers, raises that exceed the cost of living in at least 50 percent of all NEA higher education locals, and a minimum starting salary of $28,000 for all education support professionals. These changes the organization are advocating should improve the standard of living for educator professionals, in addition to helping attract highly talented and qualified personnel.
Education Support Professionals, ESPs, are especially hit hard with their low wage earnings, forcing them to result to other means just to continue to survive. A living wage campaign has been starting by some in districts throughout the country. Marianne Murray, an education support staff worker of West Aurora School District 129 in Illinois is credited of spearheading a living wage campaign in her community. Within her organization, Murray recently helped convince her equally passionate members to begin a grassroots campaign for a living wage, the amount that is considered the minimum hourly wage a person needs to pay for life’s basic necessities without relying on family, government, or public assistance. With their lack of equitable pay, it can be argued ESPs across the country have been viewed more so as an expendable commodity than a luxury treasure to keep in the schools. Many have had to even fight against the abolishment of the salary schedule for non-certified personnel.
Higher education faculty and support staff are worth equitable professional pay as well, with their plight for equal pay being heard across college campuses throughout the country. In recent years, higher education faculty have seen a pay decrease, in addition to their workloads being over exhausted, inequity in pay across disciplines, and compound compensation issues involving intellectual property and online courses taught. For contingent faculty, adjunct faculty and those faculty considered part-time or full-time without the possibility of gaining tenure, their situations involve not only low pay, but also overstressed workloads and the burden of having a job without sufficient career prospects. Though, with this being said, 70 percent of all academic courses taught at higher education institutions are currently taught by adjuncts.
Mentioned in an article recently featured in the Radical Teacher journal titled News for Educational Workers, teachers, students, and supporters picketed at the University of Illinois Chicago decrying contract renegotiations. At the University of California system and the AFSCME 3299 union, the union has recently successfully reach contract deals for pay increases over the next two years. The Radical Teacher article also featured many additional stories concerning layoffs currently occurring on college campuses across the country, evidence of equitable pay issues, and budget shortfalls.
With all of the discussion centered on equitable professional pay, one may ask how job satisfaction is related to pay rates. There have been much research suggesting increasing teachers’ pay would result in the attraction of highly talented personnel and greater affection for the job. A study conducted by the Commonwealth Council for Educational Administration and Management confirms this, suggesting low pay significantly affects a person’s job satisfaction. There have been other articles written confirming the negative effects of low pay on job attrition, performance, and overall profession sustainability.
Solutions to the problem, although limited, are available that could be implemented to help combat low teacher pay and all of the issues associated with it. Merit pay, this could be a probable area for consideration for increasing teacher pay and thus increasing overall teacher retention and effectiveness, has been a topic discussed during many local, state, and federal political platforms. Incentives for increasing teachers’ pay through merit have included the implementation of Denver’s professional compensation or ProComp program and the introduction of TAP, Teacher Advancement Program within districts. Emulating any one or both of these programs could be ideal for districts wishing to increase teachers’ pay and overall job satisfaction.
Assistant professor Katherine Strunk found that many districts have start using “front loaded” models, with salary increases early in teacher’s careers as oppose to later on as a way to retain highly talented personnel, in which her analysis revealed that students appear to be achieving at higher levels in those districts. In her research, published by Education Digest alongside fellow researcher Jason Grissom, they found that most teachers tend to improve most over their first three to five years on the job. Thus, early career salary bumps can help attract and retain highly talented professional staff and increase overall job satisfaction and performance. However, heavy unionization characterizes back loaded pay schedules, where unions advocate strongly for rewarding veteran teachers, in addition to this being the most prevalent pay schedule method in districts across the country. With the status quo being possibly difficult to overthrow, the researchers suggest implementing “front loaded” pay schedules through the use of alternative methods such as loan forgiveness programs for new teachers and sign on bonuses. However, higher overall compensation across the board may be the prime working solution to pay shortfalls.