(Baton Rouge – August 31, 2016) Teacher salaries are falling behind those of similar professions, according to a new study from the Economic Policy Institute which reveals that U.S. teachers’ weekly wages are 17 percent lower than comparable workers’.
“This is an important and disturbing study,” said Louisiana Federation of Teachers Interim President Larry Carter. “Most experts agree that placing an experienced, highly qualified teacher in every classroom is the single best way to give our children the education they deserve. If we are going to attract the highest quality graduates into our profession, we have to pay competitive salaries.”
The EPI study shows that over time the gap between teacher pay and other professions has grown. In 1994, teacher salaries averaged 1.8 percent lower than comparable workers. By 2015, however, the gap had grown to 17 percent.
Critics sometimes claim that public school teachers often have better benefits, including pensions and sick leave provisions, than other fields. The EPI study notes that even when benefits are factored in, teacher pay lags 11.1 percent behind other professions.
“Obviously, teachers love children and see their work as a vocation more than a job,” Carter said. “But that doesn’t mean they should take a vow of poverty.”
The pay gap is one of several factors that should concern educators and the public, Carter said. The EPI cites surveys showing that fewer college students are entering the profession, and that “teachers are less satisfied and more stressed as standardized testing has been elevated as a tool for student, school and teacher evaluations.”
Teacher morale is low in Louisiana for a number of reasons that include salaries, Carter said.
“We need to take another look at school reform, and see how it can be structured to support teachers instead of blaming them for all of the problems of society,” he said. “And we have to make funding for our schools a priority once again.”
In a state-by-state analysis, the EPI study shows that Louisiana teachers earn about 80.5 percent of comparable professions.
In one bright spot, the EPI study shows that teachers represented by a union in a collective bargaining agreement have a smaller wage gap than non-union teachers.
“Teachers and school employees who negotiate contracts through their unions are in better shape,” Carter said, “not just with higher salaries, but with better benefits and greater professional respect.”