One of the most important duties of a school district is to recruit and retain an excellent teaching core. That should be a top priority of any local school board. And although salary may not be the driving force for those entering the teaching profession, better compensation for effective teachers would attract and retain more qualified people to the profession.
Unfortunately, teacher pay increases have only been about half of what superintendents and principals received over the last few years. Calculating the data reported by KSDE, teachers’ salary increases have been 3.9% while the average salary of a principal has increased 7.4% and superintendent salaries have gone up an average of 7.9% But that’s not all. In some districts, non-certified employees like maintenance workers and bus drivers are paid more than some classroom teachers! Does that sound like a commitment to retain quality teachers?
A widely-shared solution to improving student outcomes is to put more money in the classroom. What does it say about the importance of student achievement to local school boards and administrations when pay increases are disproportionately higher to those who are not in the classroom? What does it say about priorities when local boards choose to divert money from classrooms by paying above-market wages to maintenance workers and bus drivers?
How districts spend their money is a local choice, one that is not mandated by the governor, the legislature, the Kansas Department of Education or the State Board of Education.
Much has been documented about teacher shortages, especially due to those leaving after only a few years in the profession. One way to reverse that trend would be for districts to make spending choices that would support the commitment to keeping quality teachers.
That would be a step in the direction of putting Kansas students first.