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Compensation for teachers has become a hot topic across the nation. Over the last few years, a number of school districts were forced to cancel classes as teachers went on strike over how they were compensated. To avoid interruptions to school and learning, it's important that teachers and educators are aligned moving forward on how to figure out how much to pay teachers. 

Know the Market 
Determining the right pay for a teacher begins by understanding the market. Pay rates for teachers at a specific school should be competitive with teaching salaries in the state and region where the school is located. There are several methods to help in understanding the compensation market for a school. 

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) - The BLS provides market and employment information relevant to states and metropolitan areas across the U.S. This allows educators and teachers to see what the average pay and salary range is for teachers in the area. In addition to providing wage information, the BLS forecasts future job demand for teachers. This is important to consider when reviewing compensation as school districts may need to be more aggressive with their pay if a teacher shortage exists. 
  • Glassdoor - While the BLS provides average wage information to reflect the overall market, Glassdoor can provide insight into the wages at opposing school districts. The site gathers input from current and former teachers at school districts all over the U.S. By signing up for an account, educators and teachers can see exactly what salaries have been reported by teachers from neighboring districts as well as any additional compensation or perks the teachers receive. This can be a key data point when determining what to pay teachers, especially if a specific school district continually loses its best teachers to a nearby district. 
  • State Government and News Websites - To be transparent and provide information to the public on how tax dollars are being spent, salary information is available for many teachers and other school employees through websites and databases housed by state government or new media sources. For example, the state of Wisconsin releases an annual report on teacher salaries by school based on reports submitted from the school districts. Wichita Public Schools in Wichita, Kansas release its information through a document sent directly to the media each year detailing the pay rate for each school district employee. This transparency can be a benefit to teachers and educators in helping to figure out what other teachers are earning.
Consider Experience 
Experience is one of the factors that goes into determining how much a teacher gets paid. Many schools have a salary schedule that allows teachers to earn more with the more experience they bring to the classroom. Each year teachers can see an additional bump in compensation as their years of experience teaching continue to build. 

Evaluate Performance 
As with most jobs, performance should be a key factor in how teachers are compensated. Teachers that go above and beyond for their students and the school should receive more pay than those that do the bare minimum to squeeze by. Some school districts even offer bonus pay to teachers based on how their classroom performs on standardized testing and other school initiatives. 

Account for Time Off 
Teacher salaries are often compared to salaries from individuals working in the private sector. This can be misleading since private sector employees typically work year-round, while most teachers are only employed 9-10 months. Educators and teachers need to calculate out what a true annual salary for the teacher is if comparing to the private sector. This will allow for better determination when considering what to pay teachers based on the local market. 

Evaluate Teacher Alternatives 
When considering what to pay teachers, it's important to know and understand their alternatives. While this is true for all employees, it's often overlooked in education. Some teachers have a vast array of alternatives where if they were unhappy over compensation or another matter, they could leave and secure employment elsewhere. For some this may be in another school district while others may have the alternative of going into a different profession or industry. School districts have the option to pay teachers with fewer alternatives a little less than their counterparts since the risk of them leaving is smaller than those with a large number of alternatives. 

Calculate Non-Compensation Benefits 
In addition to their actual wages, teachers are often provided a number of benefits and perks from the district or state in which they work. Some schools provide low-cost health insurance or stipends up to a certain dollar amount for teachers to purchase supplies for the classroom. Others provide teachers with a pension. It's important to take the cost of these additional benefits into consideration when determining what to pay teachers as they can have value worth thousands of dollars. A teacher may only have a $40,000 salary but several non-compensation benefits can put total compensation at $60,000 or above depending on the exact nature of the benefits. 

Understand What They Value 
Compensation is a key component of work for all employees, including teachers. However, not all teachers value compensation when considering why they remain employed with a specific school district. Some enjoy the students they teach or the support provided by the school administrators. Administrators need to develop relationships with each of the teachers in their school to ensure they know what their teachers value. Knowing this provides greater flexibility to the district overall when figuring out what to pay them as districts may be able to offer non-compensation benefits and perks that a teacher values more than money. 

Provide Additional Compensation Opportunities 
School districts will sometimes hire part-time personnel to fill roles such as after school tutors, coaches, mentors or activity sponsors. Often these roles come with some type of compensation for the person's time. Rather than hire external people to fill these roles, schools have the ability to provide teachers with an opportunity to earn a higher salary if they want it. Review what additional opportunities exist within the school to compensate teachers. 


BLS: High School Teachers 

Education Week: Teacher Pay

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