Teachers on the March: Evidence on Relative Pay, Shortages and Retention
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
There has been a recent surge in teacher strikes across the country. Statewide strikes in Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and West Virginia took place in 2018. Thus far, in 2019 there have been strikes in Los Angeles, Oakland, and Denver. The strikes brought to attention many issues that concern public education including class sizes that are too large, inadequate staffing of critical positions, crumbling building, outdated textbooks, and teacher pay.
This panel brings together research on trends in relative teacher pay and how the deepening pay penalty parallels both a growing shortage of teachers and the difficulty of retention. It should come as no surprise that recruiting and retaining teachers is more difficult when there is an ever growing disadvantage in relative teacher pay. The three papers fit nicely together given the inter-relatedness of teacher pay, teacher shortages and teacher retention.
The first paper documents the trends in relative teacher pay from 1979-2018. For all public-sector teachers, the relative (regression adjusted) weekly wage has grown substantially since the mid-1990s. The teacher wage penalty was 5.3 percent in 1993, grew to 12.0 percent in 2004, and reached a record 21.4 percent in 2018. Relative pay gaps are worse for male teachers which may explain to some degree when so few teachers are men. And, while teachers have better benefits than other professionals the benefit advantage still leaves a considerable compensation disadvantage.
The second paper concerns the dynamics of the labor market for teachers and the imbalance between the number of teachers needed in a given year, against those available to be hired that year—otherwise the shortage of teachers. Shortages are a matter for concern because it harms students, teachers, and the public education system as a whole. Lack of sufficient, qualified teachers and staff instability threaten students’ ability to learn, reduce teachers’ effectiveness, and high teacher turnover consumes economic resources that could be better deployed elsewhere. The results show the characteristics of those who enter, who exit, and who stay in the teaching profession, and examine the reasons behind teachers staying in teaching, quitting the profession, or not pursuing a teaching career.
The third paper builds on the relative teacher pay gap as an important predictor of attrition out of the teaching workforce. Policymakers thus worry that teachers leave their jobs for higher paying employment outside of education. Yet, only a few studies examine the actual salaries former teachers earn outside the education sector, or what factors contribute to differences in earnings of former teachers. This research links statewide Texas Education Agency administrative data to unemployment insurance records from the Texas Workforce Commission, allows the tracking of former teachers into the non-education sector. This paper finds former teachers employed full time receive an increase of 22 percent in wages when they stay in the K-12 sector and 25 percent when they leave the field of education.