I wondered if the maximum salary was tied to the median income level of the district. Seemed reasonable that the districts in wealthier areas would pay more. With a correlation number of -.26 though, that’s not the case.
Districts with lower income levels (and, presumably, harder-to-teach kids) offer teachers a little extra to make up for the more challenging working conditions. It’s easy to imagine what would happen if all districts had to pay teachers the same. Faced with a choice between earning $34,000 a year in an affluent district, or $34,000 a year in the inner city, almost every teacher would choose the affluent district. Same pay, better environment. A few dedicated people would still teach in the poorer districts, but it would nearly impossible for those districts to attract enough teachers.
Different districts don’t all have to pay teachers the same. But within districts, we do have that problem. Rigid salary schedules treat all teachers in a district the same, regardless of suject area or special circumstances. So new teachers are faced with a choice: earn $34,000 a year teaching special education, a difficult job that requires extensive training, or earn $34,000 a year teaching elementary language arts, which is not nearly so demanding. Consequently, there’s a teacher shortage in the most difficult subject areas. There are also shortages in math and science, because people with that knowledge could earn a lot more in industry.