Topic: Teacher Compensation

Overview

Teacher Compensation

Insufficient compensation is a key contributing factor as to why many states have trouble attracting and retaining a strong teacher workforce. Not only is inadequate pay one of the top reasons teachers cite for choosing to leave, it is also one of the top reasons prospective teachers identify for ultimately choosing not to enter the profession in the first place. 

Teachers consistently earn significantly less than other college-educated workers — in the SREB region, the “teacher wage gap” is approximately 21 percent.

What do strong teacher compensation systems look like?

  • Move away from traditional “step and lane” salary schedules that are based solely on degree level and years of service, as these do not consistently correlate with strong teaching. Instead, create a new salary structure that is connected to a tiered licensure system. This licensure system should be based on a combination of inputs, including degrees, years of experience, and teachers’ growth and impact. This aligned licensure system should also allow teachers to advance through as they grow their skills, knowledge, and competencies.
  • Reward teachers’ growth and leadership. In alignment with the tiered licensure system, give strong teachers various options for advanced roles and responsibilities that come with higher base salaries. 
  • Embed cost of living raises and licensure renewal raises, so wages do not stay stagnant for teachers at any level. 
  • Keep an eye on take-home pay — make sure that premiums and retirement contributions are affordable and still leave teachers with a living net wage.
  • Explore how to improve the holistic professional compensation package, beyond just salary. For example, examine options for health and retirement benefits to find places to improve. 

How SREB supports teacher compensation policies

SREB publishes data, analyzes policies, and tracks state proposals for changes to K-12 teacher compensation. We also work with states directly to identify innovative approaches to compensation structures and to improve upon other teacher retention strategies. 

Publication March 2022 | 4 pages

Teacher Compensation in SREB States
Takeaways From SREB's Latest Data Dashboard

Teacher compensation includes salaries plus health and retirement benefits. Seeing compensation as a whole, including take-home pay, can help policymakers address teacher shortages. This publication highlights important facts from SREB’s extensive Teacher Compensation Dashboard, including salary averages and trends, health benefit premiums, annual pension benefits and average take-home pay.

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Blog post Megan Boren, SREB
Salaries 2014 to 2020 Health benefits 2019 to 2020 Retirement benefits 2019 to 2020 Take-home pay 2019 and 2020

To See Teacher Compensation, Look at More Than Salaries
Teacher Pay Is Increasing. So Is the Cost of Benefits

This spring, the National Education Association released its annual teacher pay analysis a bit earlier than usual. This data is widely used across the nation as the main source for average teacher salaries by state. The headline for 2021: Teacher salaries are going up by an average of 1.5% across the nation, and average spending per pupil is up 5%.

This is fantastic news ─ no bones about it.

It’s also not the whole story.

Publication September 202010 pages

New Ideas in Teacher Compensation

To help states retain teachers and recruit the next generation into the profession, this brief examines teacher compensation policies in states and how adjustments could help reverse teacher shortage trends. The report looks at teacher compensation packages as a whole, including data on salary, health insurance, retirement and other benefits. It also outlines moderate-, low- and no-cost strategies for states and districts to improve teacher working environments.

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Resources

Proposed Teacher Salary Increases, 2021

Updated February 2021

Arkansas $2,000 over two years
Kentucky $1,000 
North Carolina $2,500 educator bonuses that would be paid in April 2021
South Carolina

$35 million to resume annual step increases that were paused in 2020-21 because the state is still operating under the 2019-20 budget via continuing resolution.

Resources

Teacher Salary Increases, SREB States
2020-21 school year

Updated January 2021

During their 2020 sessions, legislatures in eight SREB states proposed increases in teacher salaries for the 2020-21 school year. After the pandemic began and states reconsidered their budgets, the states did not act on those proposals. 

Two SREB states acted to increase teacher salaries.

Blog post Megan Boren, Program Specialist, SREBBlog Post

Respect (and Pay) Our Teachers, Or Lose Them

teacher overseeing student work in library As state education budgets suffer during this pandemic, the teaching profession simply cannot absorb the kind of blow it took in the last recession. Teacher salaries dropped substantially then, and today, a decade later, they’re still lower on average than before the Great Recession. Morale has dropped, too, according to surveys, and turnover has risen as budgets and teacher supports decrease. We can’t afford to repeat the same mistakes in this current climate, another recession aggravated by COVID-19.

Publication April 20204 pages
how could states and district improve teacher working conditions report cover

How Could States and Districts Improve Teacher Working Conditions?
Examples of Initiatives From Around the South

On average, 8% of teachers leave the profession each year, many citing poor working conditions. State policymakers can improve the environment for educators through early career induction, mentoring, professional learning, school leadership, tiered certification, career lattices and advanced teacher roles. This briefing offers specific examples from SREB states and three steps to consider.

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