If you ran a small business and had to fill two vacancies, one in an area where you were sure to get many applicants and another position that was chronically hard to staff, what would be the logical thing to do? Any wise business person would hold constant (or lower) the salary offered for the job with an abundant supply, and raise the salary for the hard to staff position. Many schools in the state face just this problem, yet they have bought into a system that has put them in a straitjacket regarding making important staffing decisions, such as paying some teachers more.

Today, the Show-Me Institute released my new paper, The Salary Straitjacket: The Pitfalls of Paying all Teachers the Same. In the paper, I detail some startling information that I discovered. The average math and science teacher in Missouri makes less than the average teacher, including teachers of non-core subjects.

This happens because most school districts pay teachers based on a single salary schedule. This means all teachers, regardless of subject, earn the same salary as long as they are on the same step on the schedule. This type of system would be perfectly fine if all teachers were of the same quality and in the same supply. In reality, we know that teachers of math and science are in high demand and short supply.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) regularly notes that there are shortages in these areas. We do not just have a short supply; people with math and science skills might also have more alternative career options than other teachers. This means they would be more likely to leave the teaching profession. The straitjacket does not allow school districts to adjust to the needs of the market, meaning schools and students suffer.

Read the full paper to find out more about this topic and my solutions to help make Missouri more competitive.
James V. Shuls, Ph.D.

About the Author

James Shuls
James V. Shuls is an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and Distinguished Fellow in Education Policy at the Show-Me Institute.