4 States that Want to Change How Much Teachers Are Paid

The amount teachers are paid has been the subject of some controversy. Yet with U.S. teachers spending more time in the classroom than other teachers worldwide, most teachers know that the money is hard-earned.

Indeed, despite the long hours, teachers in American aren’t compensated well, explains OECD director of education and skills Andreas Schleicher. The pay, compared to other countries, is competitive in the US; however, it lags behind that of other American workers with college educations.

The OECD report shows American teachers see smaller salary increases than their foreign counterparts; in the most recent year surveyed, the average teacher with 15 years of experience saw a salary increase of 32.6 percent. The US average was just 26.6 percent.

Because of this, it is not surprising that there are efforts around the country meant to change how much teachers earn. Let’s look at four states that have tried to reform teachers’ paychecks.

  1. Florida: Florida lawmaker Senator Darren Soto introduced a bill that would raise the minimum salary for teachers to $50,000 a year.

The Florida Teacher Fair Pay Act, or Senate Bill 280, calls for the Legislature to fund the Florida Education Finance Program in a manner that guarantees the $50,000 minimum starting salary for teachers with union representation.

In addition, the bill would prevent school districts from setting their own lower salary, and would leave base pay negotiation with teachers unions to be decided upon by each individual district. Teachers’ salaries would also require adjustment each year after based on inflation from the year prior.

Soto hopes to help teachers after hearing from many who are threatening to walk away from their careers in the Sunshine State unless something changes. He believes that the minimum starting salary for teachers will help.

A study obtained last month ranked Florida’s Orange County teachers as some of the lowest-paid in the country. The starting salary in Orange County is around $38,000.

“Even if we don’t get to the $50,000 mark, this is part of a larger debate of getting teacher salaries up from where they are now,” said Soto.

  1. North Carolina: According to the National Education Association’s ranking from 2012-2013, the average North Carolina teacher salary is around $46,000, 46th in the U.S. The nation’s average salary is over $55,000.

Events were held earlier this week in Asheville, Waynesville and Black Mountain to emphasize the push for higher pay for the states teachers.

North Carolina lawmakers are discussing a pay raise for teachers, but the proposals vary and if approved, will result in some changes for teachers beyond just an increase in their paycheck. The A.N.C. Senate proposal states that teacher’s assistants would be cut, yet tenure would remain. The House version would keep teachers assistants, but give the teachers a smaller raise.

Gerrick Brenner of Progress North Carolina, one of the groups involved in the Aim Higher Now petition says advocates aren’t seeking the pay raise in a single year, but instead over the next four or five years.

Parent Misty Miller attended the event on Monday. She says, “I came out today to support our teachers. I would like to see our teachers be treated as professionals.”

  1. Colorado: Not all proposed solutions seem to work for the benefit of the teachers. For example, leaders from the teacher’s union asked the Colorado Department of Education to review an evaluation system, also called CITE, that ties teacher pay raises to evaluations conducted by school principals. The teacher evaluation plan designed by the Douglas County School District in Colorado was found to comply with state law, according to the state’s Department of Education.

Under the educator effectiveness law, SB 191, school districts were granted the option of creating their own teacher evaluation system as long as it adheres to state guidelines. This was the first state review of a teacher evaluation system developed by a school district.

The review that approved the system did find that the district may not have effectively communicated to teachers information about other district-initiated reviews that occur when an initial review seems to be an outlier. The state suggested including that information in the evaluation guide and on the website to ensure the teachers are well informed.

It’s essential to find a measuring system to ensure that these individualized ways of evaluating teachers doesn’t harm the school quality and penalize teachers.

  1. Ohio: In another effort that may not be entirely beneficial to teachers, the Reynoldsburg school board in Ohio wants to change the way the district pays its teachers through eliminations of scheduled raises and the health insurance plan.

Instead teachers would receive increases in pay based on the ratings they receive in the state’s new evaluation system.  If their schools perform well on state report cards and they perform work above and beyond classroom duties, they would also be eligible for bonuses.  The district would provide the teachers with an undisclosed amount of money to buy their own insurance instead of being offered health-insurance coverage.

The school wants to revere good teaching by paying higher salaries and distributing bonuses to teachers. If teachers don’t attain a rating of excellence, the goal is to encourage rapid improvement.

The state’s new teacher-evaluation system would put the highest rating teachers up for a 4 percent raise, skilled teachers would get a 2 percent raise and developing teachers would earn a 1 percent raise. Teachers in the lowest category would not receive an increase in pay.

In addition, teachers who work in schools with a composite grade of an A on the state report card would receive a bonus of $500, and those in schools with a B would receive $250.

The school board’s plan would also allow teachers to apply for a $30,000 “fellowship award” if the performance of their students exceeds expectations and the teacher has taken on additional district responsibilities rendered high in value.

The current teachers’ pact expires July 31.

I like that Reynoldsburg wants to reward its teachers with solid pay increases and eligibility for bonuses. However, I do fear that some high quality, hardworking teachers may receive low evaluations despite their dedication.

Respect for teachers is an important metric for the strength of a school system on a national scale. Paying our teachers well is one way to demonstrate respect for teachers and their profession.

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