Are Teachers’ Salaries Sufficient?

Posted by Brainspring on 13th Nov 2014

Hi everyone,

Believe it or not, today I wanted to share something interesting I found in Glamour magazine. Since I make sure to read through Time magazine first, I’m a couple months behind on Glamour. This article appeared in August’s issue:

(By the way, did anyone read the Time article recently about teacher tenure? The cover picture and caption sparked quite a bit of controversy. Read about it here: )

Back to Glamour, the article featured a survey of women’s salaries and their feelings about it. Each woman was featured with her job title, salary and responses to “How I Got Here” and “How I Feel About It”. The article was meant to discuss the gender gap in salaries and priorities when choosing a career, but I found the response from the teacher compared to other women’s responses to be the most revealing part.


Women’s Salaries

The highest salary was $250,000 for a Medical director; part-time hospital physician. Her feelings about her salary were, “I’d love to make over $300,000. But more money mean more time away from home. I have a three-year-old son, so I’m content.” Like many women in the survey, work-life balance was more important than money. In fact, according to the survey, “89% of women say flexibility and sane work hours were more important than salary.”

How do you value work-life balance and salary?

Do you feel teaching allows you an adequate balance?

The lowest salary (remember this number for the next paragraph) was $27,500 for a grocery store produce assistant. What she had to say about her job was, “I love the benefits- my birthday’s a ‘holiday’!” She may be one of the 40% of women who would “stay at their job even if they won the lottery,” according to the survey.

Now we get to the teacher’s salary, which also happens to be the second-lowest in the survey. The seventh-grade science and language arts teacher reported a salary of $28,000. What I found more telling though, were her comments about her salary: “My school district only pays me for a part-time job, even though I do full-time work.” In response to how she feels about it, she said, “extremely frustrated.”

Do you feel you are paid adequately for the amount of work you do?


Why Salary Matters

Of course, I know most of us went into teaching because we love it. That’s why I find it so revealing and heartbreaking to hear teachers frustrated about salaries, contracts, work-load, ect. to the point where it begins to take away the joy of teaching. I had similar feelings at one of the schools I worked at. It wasn’t about the money; it was about feeling valued, like my contributions mattered.

Our teachers are doing one of the most important jobs in society. They are responsible for educating the youth. To me, that’s a job that should be highly valued. Teachers should make enough to comfortably live on. I hear far too often teachers worried about making mortgage and insurance payments and not being able to afford their own children’s education or to fix their car. A salary that can’t support those basic costs is unacceptable.

Paying teachers a decent salary would result in better teacher retention and ultimately better student performance. If teachers were shown they are valued, like in some other countries (take Finland as an example:,) receiving a decent salary, extensive training and community support, our students would benefit. Making teaching a valued and respected profession would help attract the best candidates and help keep the best teachers already practicing.

Contrast the general attitude about the teaching profession with this one from an article titled, What the US can’t learn from Finland about ed reform:

“And unlike in the United States, teaching is one of the top career choices among young Finns. Teachers in Finland are highly regarded professionals — akin to medical doctors and lawyers. There are eight universities educating teachers in Finland, and all their programs have the same high academic standards. Furthermore, a research-based master’s degree is the minimum requirement to teach in Finland.”


I know there is no simple answer or easy solution to the issue of teacher salary and satisfaction. I also know both of those factors vary greatly from one school to another. I think Glamour is on to the right idea with their salary survey though: talking about salary is an important step to making changes.


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