Dean Baker had a sort of snarky reaction to the latest round of “teacher shortage” stories: Employers should raise salaries to attract more workers.
He’s right, teacher pay is low and flat, but Baker’s solution of across-the-board raises only makes sense in a world where we were suffering from a general, national teacher shortage. We aren’t. Teacher shortages tend to be regional and specific to particular schools and particular positions within schools.
So while across-the-board raises might be a good thing to do, they won’t solve the long-term problem of hard-to-staff schools and subjects. To do that, districts need to implement extra incentives to make their shortage areas more attractive. But districts aren’t doing that. As we showed in a report last fall, the percentage of districts using extra pay incentives for teachers in shortage areas has barely budged. It was at 12 percent in 2003-4, and it was only up to 14 percent as of 2011-12.
Even if we take merit and performance off the table, more districts should recognize that, if they are having difficulty hiring for certain positions, year after year after year, they should do something to make those positions more attractive. Higher pay would be a good first step.