Teachers Face Large & Growing Professional Pay Gap


Compared with workers in occupations that have similar education and skill requirements, public school teachers face a large and growing pay gap, according to a new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
Over the last decade, the report shows, the teacher pay gap increased from 10.8 percent to 15.1 percent. That translates into weekly earnings that are about $154 lower than comparable workers’. (The report compares teachers to accountants, reporters, registered nurses, computer programmers, clergy and personnel officers.)
AFT executive vice president Antonia Cortese notes that this is just the latest study to confirm the same discouraging trend. “Teachers continue to be vastly underpaid compared with similar workers,” she says in a prepared statement. “This makes recruitment and retention of the best and brightest increasingly difficult, even as the nation recognizes the growing need for high-quality teaching.”
For female teachers and for those with more seniority, the gap is especially striking. In 1960, women teachers were better paid than other similarly educated workers-by about 14.7 percent. By 2000, the situation had reversed to the point where female teachers faced a 13.2 percent annual wage deficit. The pay gap for teachers who are early in their careers has grown only slightly in the past 10 years, the EPI says. For senior female teachers (in the 45-54 age group), the deficit grew 18 percent during that same period.

17 thoughts on “Teachers Face Large & Growing Professional Pay Gap”

  1. “accountants, reporters, registered nurses, computer programmers, clergy and personnel officers.” Oh, come on! Do you think there is any bias in this study? Most registered nurses I know have more responsibility, the need for more technical knowledge, more vulnerability to discipline and job loss, greater liability insurance costs, weekend hours, changing shifts, no summers off. Computer programmers are not a comparable profession either, nor are accountants. Why not try social workers, psychological associates, librarians, adjunct college professors, research associates, technical school instructors (should I go on?)…ALL of whom have average salaries lower than the average teacher’s salary. Plus most comparable professions do not have the benefits to match those of teachers. I support teachers being paid well for a job well done, but this study is propaganda.

  2. Does Gregg actually know any teachers?! Does Gregg realize the amount of hours teachers put into grading and planning on evenings, weekends and breaks? Does he know how much time teachers are required to take classes to renew their licenses? Or how many teachers take second jobs during the summer months to make ends meet? Teachers are under an incredible amount of stress and pressure every day. Get a clue!

  3. I hope that this study can be seen more as a reason why it is becoming harder and harder to get qualified people into the teaching profession, not as a justification for asking for more money. While the benefits are good and the summertime is great publicity, more college students are going to be examining the potential paychecks before committing to a career in education.

  4. Teacherf does seem quite clueless as to the amount of continuous work and effort professionals put into their professions, and seems to believe teachers are some special class of workers demanding sympathy for their efforts.
    In his 80’s, pianist Vladimir Horowitz was asked by a young student how many hours he practices. In seriousness, he admitted his age was taking its toll and he was unable to practice very much any more, saying he was down to 9 hours a day.
    For small business owners, college professors, lawyers, doctors, IT professionals, writers, journalists, musicians, etc — few can afford to work 8 hour days. There is always more to study, more to read, more preparation, more changes taking place in your area at you have to keep up with and evaluate; many professions require continuing education, certification, recertification on a continual basis, and some make far less salary, have far less benefits, and far more professional risk than teachers.
    TeacherF sentiments seem to reflect the tensions within the teaching profession between those who view the teacher as just a worker on the assembly line (MTI?), and being a professional where the expectations are far greater.

  5. I am really curious how much, if any, of the other professions listed have to use their own money so that they can do their job. I wonder how many hours they volunteer to their employer. I had another career before becoming a teacher and it was never expected that I need to buy the basic supplies to perform the duties of my profession. I love teaching, so I was willing to take a $10,000 a year pay cut to go back to school. It was only after I began teaching that I realized there was no profit sharing, no end of the year bonus, no overtime, and no respect. I will continue to teach and have second jobs and fight against the dismantling of our public schools in Wisconsin due to the revenue caps. I do not make much, but I do make a difference. Someone is clueless, but it is not teacherf. Larry I give you the grade of C on your post-Clueless!

  6. TeacherC – thanks for pointing out the google ads. I have them here, at the moment, for ornamental purposes. They generate very little money, far less than 5% of the annual cost of running the site. I do, however find the algorithms and marketing interesting, as you have pointed out.

  7. To teacherC:
    I don’t remember ever having to buy my own supplies to perform my basic duties, but I certainly have and still do buy materials (books and equipment) and take much time at home to extend my knowledge.
    During the entire time I worked at what is now called WERC (then called Research and Development Center for Education), the University at least encouraged and perhaps expected that staff would improve their skills. We were allowed to take one University course/semester and I did so (as did others). We payed for this professional development and advancement out of our own pockets and did coursework outside of work and still pulled our “8 hours” and more. Being fresh out of college, young and eager and generally only personally responsible for myself and in love with having the opportunity to learn and work at the same time, I had a ball. Four years of college is nowhere near enough when you’re involved with research and extending knowledge rather than just absorbing it.
    After almost 40 years after the B.S., (less grad school, etc), it’s still a joy to attack new problems and gain additional substantive knowledge, but harder. Undoubtedly, the aging brain is partly to blame, but I also have to sometimes relearn what I used to know, and have forgotten, before extending my knowledge. And, I have other responsibilities that take more time.
    The incessant whining of teacherc and teacherf is telling.
    “No profit sharing, no end of year bonus, no overtime, and no respect”. No wonder! You don’t express any interest in the intellectual!
    And no wonder schools are often drudgery to our kids and the kids often fail to progress — the teachers cannot impart the joy of learning, the joy of getting smarter, the joy of truly succeeding, because the teachers themselves are devoid of such character.
    The extent to which a teacher is in love with his/her subjects and enjoy the life of the mind, they can impart that knowledge and love to the students. The extent to which teachers do not have that character? — that quite well explains the public school’s, and our kids, intellectual decline.

  8. Larry…seriously, “the extent to which a teacher is in love with his/her subjects and enjoy the life of the mind, they can impart that knowledge and love to the students. The extent to which teachers do not have that character?–that quite well explains the public school’s, and our kids, intellectual decline.” Really. I wonder how many other professionals go to work every day with the same enthusiasm, dedication, patience and hope for the day only to have those they supervise–children–ignore them at best, swear at them, disrupt the learning of everyone else in the classroom, run screaming…yes, screaming…down the hallways … the rooms and halls of the workplace.
    Many of us who work in public education are facing a crisis…do we continue in the profession for which we have such passion, though we now start each day taking medication to get through the day, or do we give up the stress of being sworn at by students and blamed for societal ills by so many others and take another job that won’t give us professional satisfaction but may make life outside the workplace a little easier.
    This was always what I thought of as my dream job, but it has become a nightmare.

  9. It is true. People only read and hear what actually confirms what they believe. I stated twice how much I love teaching children, that although I do not make much, I make a difference. I am sorry if it sounded like I was whining. I am proud to be a teacher. I am OK with spending hundreds of my own money for the basics, pencils, paper, crayons, books, gloves, hats, mittens, food baskets for those kids who had no food at home, and oh yes, I also bought a Christmas tree for a family who could not afford Christmas. (I know that is not academic-I did it anyway) How dare you question my academic intellectual curiosity. How dare you. It pains me to think of the teachers that I have consoled as they cry over not having enough support for the children with developmental disabilities or English language learners due to cuts due to the revenue caps. I have seen the look on the face of children who are wondering why they have to have classes in hallways and temporary classrooms. What do you think it tells them? So, yes, I will “whine” about the conditions that our children have to put up with. But please, don’t ask me to stay quiet and not advocate for my students. I realized that I would not get overtime, profit sharing, etc. I AM FINE WITH THAT! I am not complaining. I get something even more important than money. I get to teach and shape the future. I am sure you had a lot of opportunities to do that working at the WERC. I feel that what we do is the most important work that we have in our country. I do not feel we can pay teachers enough for what they do. I also feel that we do not want teachers who are only doing the job for the pay. In Wisconsin, we do not have to worry that folks are entering the teaching profession for the pay. Our starting pay is one of the lowest in the country. Where would you go if you were young, bright and had a dedication to teach? Multiple choice:
    a) A place that values education and is willing to compensate professionals for their dedication- Provides opportunities for professional development.
    b) A place that compensates teacher for a job well done and provides the support necessary for the children to succeed –Aides for kids with special needs, classrooms with walls, copiers that work.
    c) The hard work that parents, volunteers, teachers, community member’s work is respected.
    d) MMSD under the revenue caps.
    What would you do? There are areas of the country where you do get to teach, you get to have the support that your children in you classroom need (aids, social workers, custodians, esl/special ed support), pay off your student loans, are supported by the community, and not have to spend 100’s of your own money to just do your job. The teacher who stays in Madison under these conditions is the one who should be teaching our children and should not be mocked by people on the SIS. Please, the next time you visit a school, just ask any classroom teacher how much they have bought out of their own money and how the state imposed cuts have affected her/his students. Does anyone in this blog ever see what our reality is like? I can’t believe they know our reality.
    The funding system is broken in Wisconsin.

  10. I sincerely appreciate the many teachers who have taught my kids for the past 9 years we have been in the MMSD. I also appreciate the administrators and support staff who have been expected to do more with less. We are all on the same team. In fact our PTOs at both the elementary and middle school level have made tangible efforts to assist staff with compensation for supplies and other out of pocket expenses. Our parent organizations have also funded food basket drives, clothing pantries, field trip funds and other efforts to level a very uneven playing field for all of our kids.
    Please know that SIS is not about mocking teachers. SIS is about openly debating ways in which to improve the educational opportunities for all of our children. I believe Jim Z posted the article from the AFT precisely because the issue of teacher compensation, development and retention are at the heart of a quality education. I thought it was obvious by the variety of different sources and opinions posted here that this site is about provoking debate and not stating a specific viewpoint.
    I will add a plug for a book that is very pro-teacher but does consider the need to look at different compensation methods:
    “Teachers Have It Easy”: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America’s Teachers (Hardcover)
    by Dave Eggers (Author), Daniel Moulthrop (Author), Ninive Clements Calegari
    From Publishers Weekly:
    “Whether or not one agrees with their solutions, their characterization of the problem is spot-on. Perhaps more valuable, however, is their detailed discussion of actual school reform initiatives. Unlike most of the problems treated here-low pay and little respect for teachers or resource shortages in public schools-these incentives will not be familiar to most readers. Each of them take different approaches to the problems facing public schools and have had varying degrees of success, but all of them illustrate the gains that can be made when committed educators and policymakers work together with shared goals and community support. It’s no accident that the book winds up with this informative consideration of solutions (nor that it provides a rich bibliography for further reading as well as contact lists of reform-minded school districts, teacher recruitment agencies and a variety of educational organizations) because in the end it is less a complaint than a call to action, one that will appeal to a wide body of readers.”

  11. I don’t at all believe teacher compensation, development and retention are at the heart of quality education.
    Okay, give every teacher a salary of $100,000 plus the greatest health care money can buy, and nothing will change in the classroom, where all efforts must be focused. It’s not that teachers shouldn’t be paid well or that they shouldn’t be paid more, but I cannot see teachers working harder and placing more effort in the classroom merely because they are given a pay raise — I cannot see anyone with a straight face making such an argument. Nor do I buy the argument that the more one pays the higher the quality of teacher; nor do I buy giving some CEO a crash course in teaching and certifying them; nor do I buy a 2-year stint in Teach for America (but it does look good on one’s resume).
    Once a threshold compensation level is reached, retention is a matter of working conditions in the school, the character of the students and a teacher’s colleagues, and quality of the curriculum, and whether the students are actually learning. My old high school and college friends (and others of a younger generation) have quit the profession — not over pay but over failure of their respective administrations to ensure and support student discipline (at the level necessary to focus on academics), on a sloppy soft “feel good” curriculum that places emphasis on everything but the core contents, and student body who predominately don’t seem to give a damn (these are the HS kids — damaged by the time they get that far).
    The problem is systemic and the solutions are simply not within the power of individual teachers, anecdotes of successful classrooms aside. The education literature is filled with innovative solutions, which come and go, and anecdotal “evidence”. I often wonder if such “solutions” are no more than latest “great” idea from some student completing their PhD in Education (actually I know that is true in several cases; in one case, the new curriculum and a nicely profitable business was based on a Masters thesis!).
    And I truly don’t care if teacherc loves children (or hates them). Are the kids learning and are you teaching? There is nothing more — that’s the bottom line.
    I’m very uncomfortable with teachers buying school supplies, and uncomfortable with PTO’s doing the same. The basics need to be supplied by BoE, not a voluntary addition to our property taxes nor from a teacher’s salary. Kindness and respect for students and their parents is a must, but maintaining a professional relationship is critical — being an anonymous benefactor is okay, but otherwise it places both the kids and parents in a role that is not respectful.
    Most parents, including those in poverty, see an education as the path from poverty, and a key to success. For families in poverty, there is no recourse but an education by the public schools. No amount of mixing with those of other cultures will make up for poor reading skills, and all the other “academic” skills that schools are supposed to impart; feeling good about themselves is not enough. If the schools and teachers fail in their primary task, strong educational skills, these kids are guaranteed to continue in the cycle of poverty.
    I have not read the “Teachers Have It Easy” book, but the cited review is the same old same old — “gains can be made when committed educators …”, “a call to action”. Pick up any book on education in the last 50 years (post-Sputnik) and you will read the “calls to action”, and oh so many promises and so many “solutions”. Okay, so THIS TIME it’s going to be different? Right!. For 10 years, some 40 years ago, I labored in this area — intellectually interesting, but the research was ultimately a waste of time and money and no good to 2 generations of students.
    The theoretical broadening which comes from having many humanities subjects on the campus is offset by the general dopiness of the people who study these things.
    — Richard P. Feynman

  12. I, for one, am very sympathetic to teachers. My mother was a teacher in Cleveland during the heyday of busing. I remember when she would come home shaking because there had been kids shooting guns in the halls. I also spent much time in the MMSD school my younger children attended and got quite an eyeful there. Parents who don’t get a chance to spend time in the school rarely have a good idea of what the actual situation on the ground is like. I was the recipient of polite incredulity on many occasions when I attempted to relate scenes from our school to other parents.
    We left MMSD, but not because of the teachers. Almost all the teachers we had dealings with were extraordinary, dedicated, talented people who put in long hours doing the best job they could under difficult circumstances. The one exception was a teacher who waited a couple years too long to retire.
    The problems we had were with administration policy, curriculum, classroom conditions and other similar issues over which teachers have little control and by which they are just as adversely affected as the families. When my daughter was terrorized and received death threats from another student, the administration discounted it as unsubstantiated and didn’t want to pursue it. But my daughter’s teacher, who knew how dangerous this student was, insisted, and forced the matter, so that the student was disciplined. The math curriculum at our elementary school was awful, Everyday Math. But many teachers supplemented in some way to offset this. At the lower grade levels, the teachers followed the ‘boring worksheet’ and timed tests program, so that my kids passed the mixed operations test by end of 2nd grade. One teacher invested huge amounts of time in curriculum differentiation, with stacks of photocopies filling the room. It wasn’t equivalent to having a good curriculum, but the point is that teachers really did try. Given the mix of students and ability in the classroom, it’s nothing short of miraculous that they can accomplish anything.
    I shake my head at the thought of my oldest child’s accelerated math physics teacher, who used no textbook and saw himself as ‘more of a facilitator than a teacher.’ But he was young, and I blame the ed school’s indoctrination more than the teacher. Often the teachers have no control over textbooks and are strongly encouraged to use certain teaching methods which ostensibly work better with low-achieving students.
    This year, I feel the most for the music and arts teachers, many of whom are dealing with class size increases of 50% (and a mix of classes, not a single large group) and driving to 2 or more schools during the day to patch together a full-time job. However, all the teachers have a lot to handle, more and more every year with budget cuts on top of demographic changes.
    Money does matter. People need to feel valued. Part of that comes from relationships, organizational structure, etc. But the paycheck doesn’t just pay the bills. It’s also a symbol of one’s value in the organization. Teachers will work hard regardless of the paycheck size, I’m sure. But there is a psychological effect, which can’t help but trickle into work life.
    People see the stress and difficult aspects of their own job, but don’t always perceive the inner workings of others’ jobs. From the sample size of one in our household, I can say that professors work extremely long hours, working at their children’s soccer games and all weekend and long into the nights. They feel a lot of pressure and have committee meetings, travel they can’t say no to, obligatory dinners they pay for, etc. However, they don’t (generally speaking) need to worry about their safety from attack by students, or worry that the students will attack one another, or feel completely responsible for their student’s performance in class, as the students are somewhat adults. They can use any textbooks they please and are not quite as restricted in their actions by rules and regulations as are teachers. They are (generally speaking again) also better paid than teachers.

  13. Larry get a life! Seriously, no matter what, it is obvious that no one will change your one tracked mind. Your pessimistic views are very sad. Accountants, reporters, registered nurses, computer programmers, clergy and personnel officers: Bottom line is, everyone in every profession has been taught by a TEACHER! If you have not walked in our shoes…shut your mouth. Keep all your theories and comparisons to yourself if you REALLY don’t know the deal. As for the professions mentioned above, their jobs, as all, each has their own level of stress, perks, inadequacies and I’m sure if they felt the need to express it they would… however, they usually don’t because they are generally compensated well for what they do.
    I am a teacher of 11 years, I have 2 Masters degrees, school loans, 2 children, a mortgage, car payment, child care expenses, car property tax, basic utilities, state and city taxes, and the list goes on. I work on a 10 month salary getting paid ONCE a month. Work 12hrs a day on work related stuff, volunteer countless hours and wear several hats all for the “team” of schooling. I work in a “right to work state”, no union, medical benefits for me is free, however, when I add my children almost $600/mth is taken out of my check!
    Now, I love teaching and believe that the day that I don’t love it anymore, I will give up this daily SACRIFICE for something that pays! i more than teach my students, I do my job and my students are learning and appreciate my efforts (years down the line). I know this because they contact me to thank me for imparting my wisdom to them frequently.
    I believe that it is degrading to me that I have to struggle and juggle money just to BARELY make ends meet! I am MORE than qualified, yet am not compensated. As Celeste says, money does matter. Having children ages 7 & 3 I don’t find it possible to work a second job, yet still give them a quality life of having a hot dinner, monitoring homework, family time, etc. Not to mention getting a second job will only pay for the GAS to get to and fro that job, oh and the babysitter…taking me back to square one.
    Am I whining? NO…I am speaking my truth and possibly the truths of many other teachers.
    My suggestion to Larry is why don’t you try it for a while. Take the position of any teacher and live off of their salary and work under the constraints of a schoold district in a relatively poor and/or struggling area. Make 40K a year with all the deductions and life expenses then on top of that still buy basic supplies that will help to facilitate the learning for the students… YoU do that THEN come back.
    And please save your sarcasm and biased point of view for someone who wants to hear it. I, personally, respect every other profession out there. No one profession is above or beneath the other, in my opinion. However, every profession needs people to work it, therefore, people should be compensated well so that they can feel that their work is appreciated and valued on a professional level.

  14. I think the Union data is true. Teachers are underpaid even for public employees. This is especially true in Wisconsin. And we know their benefits are being decreased every year.
    The only solution in Wisconsin is to change our tax structure. We can’t pay teachers more until we collect more taxes from corporations and remove the revenue caps. It is sad that our governor and legislature care so little for the state’s teachers, children and future.

Comments are closed.