Easing Concerns About My Salary Straitjacket Solutions
After we released my new paper, The Salary Straitjacket, I quickly received a message from a friend who happens to be a teacher. He was a bit concerned about what I say in the paper; I suggest school districts should be able to “reward teachers for their unique contribution” to their school, rather than pay all teachers in the same lock-step fashion.
My friend’s concerns are many, but he has two main questions. Is it fair to pay teachers of one subject more than teachers of another? And, if we paid math and science (a.k.a. STEM) teachers more, wouldn’t it lead to shortages in other fields?
In the paper, I tried to focus on what is practical and logical from what we know about teaching and the job market. Because STEM teachers are in high demand and short supply, it does not make logical sense to pay them the same amount as teachers of other subjects who are in abundant supply. Fairness, of course, is a subjective term and paying teachers of some subjects more may seem unfair to some; but as I say in the paper, “it seems more unfair . . . to not recognize teachers for their specific skills and talents. Not all teachers are the same and not all skills are equally demanded.”
It is also important to remember that schools are not in the business of adult fairness, they are in the business of educating children. To that end, single salary schedules put a straitjacket on school officials and prevent them from having the ability to attract and retain teachers.
School districts need to be released from their straitjackets so they can begin paying teachers for their unique contributions. Schools districts then would have more leverage to attract high-quality teachers in STEM fields. If this creates shortages in other fields, the market would need to adjust. That is the beauty of the free market; it has an uncanny way of adjusting to supply and demand, whereas our current system is inflexible and perpetuates the problem of shortages in STEM subjects.