Teacher Pay Has No Correlation With Education Quality
Choice--not pay--is the key to improving education
November 9, 2011
The problem with the teacher pay issue is that it doesn't really have a lot to do with quality of education. There has been no proven correlation between higher levels of teacher pay and better quality education. In fact, often some of the nation's best-paid teachers produce some of the worst results.
Florida has one of the lowest levels of teacher pay in the nation, but has some of the best education outcomes. California, on the other hand, has some of the highest teacher compensation in the nation but is average to below average in education outcomes.
As a matter of public policy, teacher pay really matters only insofar as the pay needs to be high enough to attract and retain qualified personnel. Beyond that, what is much more important for education policy is choice. When schools compete with one another for students, and for teachers to educate those students, everybody wins.
In Florida, for instance, former Gov. Jeb Bush instituted a school voucher program that allowed the parents of students enrolled in failing schools to pull their children out and choose a different school. The results were astounding, including test scores that skyrocketed for all students.
Sadly, that program was killed off by a lawsuit from (ironically given that minority students saw the most improvement) the NCAA and the state's teacher union.
Charter schools, too, routinely outperform traditional public schools. In Detroit, for instance, 70 percent of students in charter schools met federal average yearly progress standards as compared with 33 percent in the traditional schools. This is because charter schools must perform to retain students, and they're also often exempted from teacher union contracts. Public schools have no such pressure, and have no such flexibility in hiring teachers.
This is why there are waiting lists to get into charter schools.
Teacher pay is an issue that should be settled within the context of schools trying to outcompete one another, both for students and teachers. Each school will try to hire the best teachers possible, with the best teachers earning the most pay.
Let schools choose the best teachers, and let teachers and students choose the best schools. When everyone has a choice, everyone wins.