Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Low salaries for beginning educators exacerbate rural teacher shortages in states like Montana

Teacher shortages in some rural areas can be directly attributed to low salaries. Montana, one of the nation's largest states in area, but among the smallest in population, pays beginning teachers less than any other state, Matt Hoffman reports for the Billings Gazette. In contrast, neighboring Wyoming pays beginning teachers over $10,000 more per year than Montana. Starting salaries also are considerably higher in nearby Idaho and the Dakotas, though those states pay below the national average. (Gazette graphic: Starting salaries for teachers in Montana and adjoining states with two years or less experience. Dashed line is national average.)
In addition to low salaries, another problem in Montana is that "In rural areas, which often cycle through young teachers for open positions, a sparse housing market can drive up costs of living," Hoffman writes.

"Some schools that received extra oil and gas money during the Bakken [oil] boom offered bonuses for teachers," Hoffman writes. "Some districts have purchased housing for teachers. Others have paid teachers at a bumped-up experience level on their salary schedules, essentially paying teachers for experience they don’t have. At least one school has agreed to pay for a teacher’s degree, under the condition the teacher stick around for a while. But programs are patchworked across the state and many districts take no special measures."

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