Teachers’ pay falls behind that of other college-educated workers, new study finds

(Economic Policy Institute)

The weekly pay of Virginia teachers in the last four years has fallen 31 percent lower than the wages of other college-educated workers, according to a report by the Economic Policy Institute.

The Washington D.C.-based liberal-leaning think tank found that teachers in every state make less than their similarly-educated peers. Virginia was third from the bottom on the list, behind Washington and Arizona, where teachers make 31.6 and 32.6 percent, respectively, less than others.

“Providing teachers with a decent middle-class living commensurate with other professionals with similar education is not simply a matter of fairness,” the EPI report states. “Effective teachers are the most important school-based determinant of student educational performance. To promote children’s success in school, schools must retain credentialed teachers and ensure that teaching remains an attractive career option for college-bound students. Pay is an important component of retention and recruitment.”

The report acknowledges that states had to cut funding to public schools during the 2008 recession, but went on to say “the Great Recession can’t be blamed for the erosion in teacher pay.”

“The erosion of teacher weekly wages relative to weekly wages of other college graduates in the last couple of years — and in fact since 2008 — reflects state policy decisions rather than the result of revenue challenges brought on by the Great Recession,” the report stated.

It said Virginia, along with Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas and Oklahoma, had, through tax cuts or other policy decisions since 2008, started collecting less tax revenue relative to their full capacity to generate revenue.

“Reduced spending for K–12 schools and the corresponding cutbacks in teacher salaries were conscious policy choices and were frequently done to accommodate tax cuts for corporations and the rich as well as an ideological commitment to smaller government,” the report states.

This year, lawmakers passed a budget that included money for teachers to get up to a 5 percent pay raise over two years. Part of that raise had already been approved and it will require localities to find matching local funding.

The change will still put Virginia’s average teacher pay well below the national average.

Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Henrico, is a teacher and tweeted that that kind of pay discrepancy affects the overall quality of schools.

“Retaining/recruiting good teachers is impossible when there is this kind of disparity,” he tweeted.

The number of unfilled teaching positions in Virginia increased 40 percent from 2007 to 2017 and is a “crisis” specifically in high-poverty school divisions, according to a 2017 report from the Advisory Committee on Teacher Shortages.