Monday, February 24, 2014

Show Me The Money: Pay "These" Teachers More

I know some teachers who feel this way and should!

This past Saturday, 60 + teachers from various school districts came to Rockhurst University for workshops through TEAM (Technology and Educators Advancing Missouri Science) Science. TEAMScience is the name of a consortium facilitated by a small group of us (educational professionals) who applied and were awarded a $500,000 yearly DESE grant to provide professional development stipends for teachers to integrate science and technology into their K-5 lessons. These teachers came with smiles, positive attitudes and worked hard ALL day through interactive experiments and learning activities. I'd like to think it was because of the impressive and engaging workshops we did (insert wink), but maybe it also had something to do with their benefits of the grant. Which is perfectly acceptable. We thought carefully about the benefits of this grant and wanted to make these teachers feel special for their commitment to this project:

Benefits of the grant include:

  • Up to $2,850.00 stipend for summer institutes, plus additional funds for mentoring activities
  • $100.00 for each additional training day (6 Saturdays per year)
  • Membership in National Science Teachers Association & Science Teachers of Missouri ($100 value)
  • In-classroom coaching and demonstrations from master teachers with elementary experience
  • 4 hours of graduate science credit from Rockhurst University (participants responsible for processing fee)
  • Free resources and materials for your classroom; plans are to provide one electronic tablet (e.g. I-Pad) per participant & one pair of Google Glasses per school district
  • Travel expenses for attending field trips
  • Support in preparing grant applications and professional presentations
Why would we want to do them double and provide them with all these perks? Because these teachers deserve it.

We all know that no one goes into teaching thinking "I'm going to strike it rich."  At least that was true for me. I had two other jobs (coaching and retail) my first four years of teaching. Then I continued to work at Ann Taylor my first year as an administrator (at least there was a nice discount for professional wear!). Several of my teacher friends worked weeknights and weekends at other various jobs as well. Many of us were also working on our master degrees. It was what you had to do if you wanted to stay afloat. Now, I wasn't married and didn't have a family, so I guess you could say that I had some extra time.  But, I would observe my fellow teachers bring their kids to school in the morning while they set up their classrooms for the day, or talk about how much grading they would need to do when their families went to bed. All of this happening outside their 'contracted" time. Sadly, it's still that way. While there are certainly some financial perks to teaching; benefits, retirements, a few holiday breaks, it's overwhelming obvious we do not pay these quality teachers what they deserve.

The image below shows the overall state averages for teacher salaries. Please keep in mind there is variance between schools (rural, suburban, urban, private, public, parochial, charter, magnet) depending on the content taught, grade level, years of experience and degree levels of each teacher. Not only do teachers start out at lower salaries, but as the years of experience grow, the gap widens compared to other professions. Teachers make 14% less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education and contracted time. Some articles compare teacher pay to that of a toll taker or bartender.

This is disappointing as the majority of these teachers have many years of experience and multiple degrees. Above all, many of these teachers are incredible at their craft.

Ideas on how we can we pay these teachers more:

Pay It Forward:   Want teachers to attend useful conferences and workshops, the school must pay for them and their traveling expenses. Upon their return, have them think about what they can share with other professionals in their field. Let's be completely honest, if a teacher is attending a workshop/additional professional development experience outside of school (i.e. taking time out of the classroom with travel costs covered), they could come back and share in some platform.  The school could even efficiently send one of these effective teachers to learn more about a particular area of education and have them come back to explain and teach what they learned to a group of teachers. The money saved could be used to provide an additional stipend for the teacher sent. I was just at a conference where a district sent about 50 teachers to the same conference, and many of them went to the same breakout sessions, and workshops. Why not send 10 from different grade levels, content areas and have them come back and share as experts? Stipends for this idea or not, money could be saved and placed elsewhere to enhance teacher pay.  Plus, teachers want to hear from other expert teachers during professional development days. Speakers have their time and place, but in my experience, teachers IN the trenches want to hear from teachers IN the trenches.

It's All About the Benjamins:  Do not pay a quality teacher an extra $10 or $15 an hour for an after school club or additional leadership responsibilities. Give them a stipend worth their time. If offered a low amount, teachers should always negotiate as much as possible. Contact hours with students alone DO NOT equate to the planning involved prior and after with these types of activities. Teachers who are asked to be leaders in and out of the classroom are known to always go the extra mile. Then these teachers only end up making a few dollars an hour once it is all said and done.

Mo' Money Mo' Problems?  Let's talk about merit pay. If you are unfamiliar with what 'merit' pay means, here's the down low: teachers are paid more depending on their performance and completion of extra duties and responsibilities. They are often compared to other teachers as to 'how much' time and professionalism is devoted outside of their contracted teaching requirements. There are merit pay programs where performance in the classroom is also evaluated, and their students' standardized test scores. This often causes competition between teachers. Research shows that it has not had an effect on raising student performance in the classroom.  However, it has kept many of these amazing teachers in the classroom who are already knocking the socks off their kids and making a positive difference in the world of education. It does appear to be working in North Carolina, Denver and Dallas schools.

Take The Money And Run: Great teachers are kind hearted and truly want to do what is best for their students. Unfortunately, evil (yes evil!) people take advantage of of these teachers. If asked to provide additional training outside of the normal workday, tutoring, research, and/or attend a workshop on a weekend or beyond the normal contracted day, compensation needs to occur. Time beyond the contracted weekday is already spent with grading, meetings and following up on your teaching responsibilities. These teachers should: 
I've seen these teachers, kindly respond to an offered payment, "No, that's ok...I'm happy to help." Great teachers already volunteer for more than their share, so when presented with an opportunity to earn extra compensation (money) in your profession, take it and to save it, or spend it!

Let's not allow these teachers transition out of teaching because we can't afford to keep them. Our schools need these teachers. 
Our kids need these teachers. 
We all need these teachers.

[NOTE: These teachers should not be confused or compared with those teachers. Those teachers who should not be teaching in the classroom and could be one of the main reasons these teachers are not getting paid more.]



  1. Love this blog post, and don't forget that your ideas will help THESE teachers avoid becoming THOSE teachers...because sometimes THOSE teachers are running the other way because they have never been properly recognized for being THESE teachers! :)

  2. Thanks Jane! I agree with the 'these' and 'those' you mentioned. Keep up the amazing work. I miss teaching with you!