Thursday, February 25, 2016

Falling salaries cause teacher shortages, especially in the South; mean salaries are down in 28 states

While many states have tried to address teacher shortages—especially in rural areas—by paying off new teachers' student loans, recruiting rural high school students into education programs or promoting the quality of life in a rural community, the problem of low pay persists in many areas. In 28 states, including most of the South, teacher pay decreased from 1999-2000 to 2013-14, according to data Stateline took from National Center for Education Statistics estimates.

In Oklahoma, for example, "teachers new to the profession earn about $31,600 a year," Sophie Quinton reports for Stateline. "Although $31,600 is higher than the average private-sector salary for a new college graduate in Oklahoma, after 10 years private sector workers earn 37 percent more than teachers do, according to an analysis commissioned by the School Boards Association and the Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition." (Stateline map screenshot; to view an interactive version click here)
Some states, like New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Washington have called for statewide teacher raises, Quinton writes. But low pay is not the only factor. "Teacher shortages involve many factors, including teacher retirements, a growing school-age population and efforts to reduce class sizes. Educators, advocates and researchers nationwide have different theories about why schools may have trouble recruiting qualified teachers."

Richard Ingersoll, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, argues that the problem isn't shortages, but high turnover rates, pointing to federal data showing that 17 percent of new teachers leave the profession in five years or less, Quinton writes. Ingersoll said that states or schools that focus on recruiting college graduates are missing the point. He said "public schools hire teachers of all ages, including people who enter the profession through an alternate route, such as the Teach for America program. In any case, students will return to education programs once the economy improves and teacher hiring picks up, he said." He also said "new teachers are more likely to stay in the profession if they’re connected with mentors and additional training." (Read more)

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