Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Teacher Salary Increase Makes Sense

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Teacher Salary Increase Makes Sense

Article excerpt

In the U.S., the average starting salary for K-12 teachers is in the mid-$30,000 range. To college students who are trying to decide what they want to do with their lives, this meager pay suggests that our society doesn't value the work teachers do. And to people who've already decided to become teachers, it makes the mid-career switch to a higher-paying profession much more attractive. Many workers who have comparable levels of education (such as registered nurses, insurance appraisers and counselors) make considerably more money.

According to a 2016 report issued by the Economic Policy Institute, this gap has only been widening since the mid-1990s. In 1994, public school teachers' weekly wages were 1.8 percent lower than workers in comparable fields -- a number that exploded to 17 percent by 2015.

Even when you factor in the superior benefits teachers often receive, the differential remains around 11.1 percent. Moreover, EPI found that there wasn't a single state in the country where teachers could expect to make more than the average salary of college graduates. Kansas is in the bottom 15 on this measure -- our teachers make an average of 73.9 percent as much as other graduates.

Average, inflation-adjusted weekly wages for teachers actually decreased between 1996 and 2015 -- not a promising sign for college students who are considering teaching. However, this doesn't mean states are investing less in education overall -- as per-pupil spending has risen across the country, teacher salaries have remained static. While people often note that teachers get summers "off" and don't work a traditional nine-to-five schedule, this argument ignores the fact that a substantial proportion of teachers have to work second jobs, tutor, etc. during the summer. They also frequently pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets, and some of them even work a second job during the school year. …

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