SALT LAKE CITY – As children head back to school, the ongoing debate over teacher pay crops up. According to a new report, teacher salaries across the country have hit a historic low.
Teachers are back on the job. At Granite School District, they’ve filled nearly all their positions, while other districts across the state struggle to find qualified teachers.
“Probably, the biggest issue continues to be Utah ranks as one of the lowest in pay in compensation and benefits,” said Ben Horsley, spokesman for Granite School District.
Teacher salary is the focus of a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. Researchers say educators lag behind in pay compared to workers in comparable positions.
In 2015, teachers weekly wages were 17 percent lower than other college educated professionals. That’s the largest gap since 1979 when teacher’s weekly wages were 5.5 percent less than those of college graduates.
“The gap is 30 percent in Utah. A person who goes into teaching has 30 percent less income than a person with the same degree going into the private sector,” said Heidi Matthews, President of the Utah Education Association.
The report shows that veteran and male teachers are penalized the most by the wage gap. For example, 20 years ago an experienced teacher in Utah made almost 2 percent more than professional workers their same age. Today, that same teacher is making 18 percent less than their professional peers.
“They’re spending all the day long in the classroom, but then they’re spending all night getting ready for the next day and they need to be compensated for that time that they are putting in for our kids,” said Whitney McBride, parent of Granite School District student.
State educators are now dealing with the fallout – a massive teacher shortage.
Leaders are proposing schools hire people without teaching licenses. Applicants would only be required to have a Bachelor’s degree, pass an ethics exam and background check.
“It’s laws, it’s funding, it’s providing the necessary support to give our students what they need and what they deserve,” Matthews said.
The study also looked at the impact of teacher unions. Teachers who were represented by a union were paid higher salaries than those who were not. For a look at the entire study, CLICK HERE.