- Governors of 22 states have proposed salary hikes for teachers this year with recommended increases ranging from 2% in Delaware to 20% over a two-year period in Arizona. At least 15 of those states have seen pay increases so far, Education Week reports in an article that details the current nature and status of these proposals.
- While many of these proposed increases have been fully or partially approved, implementation of the raises is problematic in some cases. For instance, a computer glitch in Mississippi will likely interfere with the disbursement of the $1,500 raises teachers were promised and, in some states, local unions and administrators are involved in making decisions about who will benefit from the additional money allocated to teachers.
- After more than a year of protests, many teachers will benefit from the raises issued at the state level this year, but some say it is still too little to overcome the years of stagnant wages many teachers have seen in the past decade.
Recent teacher strikes and protests have focused the attention of many in the nation on the issue of teacher pay and benefits. Teacher pay has dropped in most states over the past few years in comparison with inflation and with the wages of other college graduates. Most states have largely recovered from the impact of the last recession and have started looking at ways to spend surplus funds. But education spending has still been a top issue for many states, though that spending has not always translated into increased teacher pay.
Even with recent raises in some states, the National Education Association noted in a recent report that the average classroom teacher’s salary in the U.S. has declined by 4.5% since 2009-10 when adjusted for inflation. With this in mind, some Democratic presidential hopefuls are already proposing massive increases in teacher pay. California Sen. Kamala Harris, for instance, has proposed a plan that would raise average teacher salaries by $13,500 a year, though no details have been provided as to where the additional $315 billion in federal funds over the next decade would come from.
While increases in teacher salaries are the most direct way to help with teacher recruitment and improve teacher satisfaction and retention rates, it is not the only benefit schools can offer. In some areas, especially in tech hubs and large cities where housing is too expensive for the average teacher, helping educators find affordable housing solutions can help offset pay concerns. Other smaller perks such as free child care and gym memberships can also help balance the equation.
At the local level, administrators may, in some cases, be left to decide exactly how increased funds for teachers and other educational needs should be spent. While having access to more funds is a boon, it can also be a challenge because educators often have competing priorities. And, while considering these options, district leaders also need to keep in mind the sustainability of these funds and how the district will be impacted should another recession hit.