NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Higher Teacher Pay Reduces Opportunities

March 21, 1997

In the 1980s, pay scales for teachers were raised in an effort to attract more bright young people to the profession. But a new study from the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research reveals that, to the contrary, the pay hike choked off job vacancies for new teachers.

  • Because the labor market for teachers is tightly controlled by union pacts, hikes in pay for entry-level teachers required raises for those already teaching.
  • So between 1979 and 1989, average salaries for educators rose 20 percent after inflation -- with teachers in Connecticut and Virginia achieving increases of 52 percent and 35 percent, respectively.
  • Better pay reduced turnover in many districts, which led to less new hiring.
  • Since school districts that increased teacher pay did not follow up with stricter standards for new applicants, newcomers were not that much more qualified than those already teaching.

The study found that a $4,000-a-year raise was linked to a 10 percent loss in job vacancies. Because there were fewer vacancies, graduates from the more prestigious schools and those with math and science degrees were most likely to abandon teaching plans and look to other fields instead, the study concluded.

Education reformers advocate that in the future, pay be linked to merit -- as is the case in privately owned and operated schools.

Source: Perspective, "Better Pay, Better Teachers?" Investor's Business Daily, March 21, 1997.


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