It’s no wonder that an increase in teacher salaries is universally supported by teachers. However, it is also in students’ best interest to have their teachers paid more.
In recent years, ICSD has been scrutinized for its low teacher salaries, and for good reason. Despite IHS’s reputation for being an academically challenging school, teachers in the district still rank in the bottom 25 percent of salaries when compared to schools of similar size state-wide.
ICSD approved a one-year collective bargaining agreement on March 8, 2016 that included a raise of 1.5 percent for all teachers. The last pay increase before that was a $1,000 add-on in 2009. The payrolls of ICSD’s teachers, many of whom have to work two jobs or are leaving the district in search of higher pay, are long overdue for some substantive increase. This would not only benefit those receiving the increased wages, but the students as well: the teacher turnover rates associated with low starting wages have an undeniable impact on the consistency of our learning environment.
While a pay raise seems like a no-brainer to many people, there still exist reasons to argue against one. The rationale behind this opinion generally argues that ICSD is lacking in spending money, that pay increases do not necessarily correlate to better education, and that not all teachers deserve the pay increase based on some subpar performances. Some students believe that teachers who are poor at their jobs or don’t help them learn do not deserve a pay increase. Furthermore, the concern that a pay increase will not lead to higher levels of learning worries those who are wary of the school’s debt. Building a high-class gym, as well as other expenditures, has made ICSD’s budget rigid and precarious, leaving little room for pay increases. The most important point made here is that there is no guarantee that increasing teacher payrolls will allow them to teach better. Uneasiness about this makes the prospect of raising salaries less meaningful, and therefore less imperative.
Granted, a pay raise may allow some undeserving teachers to slip through the cracks, but the overarching positives of the proposition outweigh its potential problems.
With a raise, retention rates are sure to go up. Our turnover rate from the 2015–16 academic year was 31 percent among teachers with fewer than five years of experience, meaning that teachers are coming and going relatively often. Although something like this may not seem like an issue on its face, the failure of these teachers to build connections or relationships could lead to teachers caring less and teaching more poorly. Students desire a classroom in which they feel comfortable and excited to work with their teacher, but this can’t be accomplished if new teachers are only being hired “temporarily.”
Another issue is that many teachers are working two jobs. Many ICSD teachers find that a median annual salary of $51,000 is just not enough to support their lifestyles and families, especially with the starting salary being less than $40,000. A mediocre salary for a demanding job prompts teachers to constantly be on the lookout for other sources of income. Thus, they are less engaged and harder to contact outside of school, as well as less involved with students. The fact is that students end up being hurt by the unwillingness of their own district to pay its educators.
The argument that paying teachers more does not correlate to stronger student performance is also silly. Veteran teachers who know how to teach well will most likely refuse to settle for a salary below what they were previously making. Not surprisingly, the starting salaries that ICSD is currently offering do not attract these types of teachers. Instead, inexperienced teachers fill the spots and the students suffer. And, according to an international study, countries outside of the U.S. whose teachers were paid 50–100 percent more than U.S. teachers had higher results on international exams and competitions. Higher pay for teachers certainly improves the performance of students.
All things considered, higher-paid teachers positively affect the school environment, student performance, and our district as a whole. Not only do teachers deserve higher salaries, but it is mutually beneficial for both students and teachers alike. If the district were able to allocate more money in the direction of teacher salaries, the results would speak for themselves. Teachers are the keystone of the educational system and are long overdue for proper treatment.