Teaching Profession

Should Teachers Make as Much as Lawmakers? Calif. Voters Could Decide

By Brenda Iasevoli — October 10, 2017 2 min read
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California teachers could soon earn as much as state legislators earn. That’s the goal of a proposed measure that education advocates are working to add to the November 2018 ballot.

The measure, called the Teacher Fair Pay Act, would require that credentialed teachers get paid the same as lawmakers who typically earn $104,118 each year, reports the Los Angeles Times. The state’s teachers currently earn anywhere from $41,00 to nearly $93,000, according to the California Department of Education.

“If we want the best and the brightest teachers in our classrooms, we have to pay competitive salaries,” said Marc Litchman, the founder of the nonprofit California Trust for Public Schools and the author of the measure. (Find out in this Teaching Now blog post which states are friendliest to teachers based on indicators including salary, pensions, and tenure protections.)

Litchman argues that teachers should be paid even more than what lawmakers make today. “Adjusted for inflation, a teacher should make $125,000 today to make what they did in 1960,” he wrote in an email to Education Week. He added that teacher salaries lag 17 percent behind salaries in the private sector and comparable public sector professions. Sarah D. Sparks explores this phenomenon in a recent Inside School Research blog post that includes this surprising fact: U.S. teachers make less than 60 cents on every dollar made by others with their education level.

Getting the measure on the ballot will require Litchman and other proponents to gather 365,880 signatures. It will then be up to voters to approve a two-cent hike in the sales tax to pay for the salary increase.

Right now, the measure is being prepared for the ballot by the state’s attorney general who will have it ready around October 22. Supporters of the effort will then be issued petitions, and they will have 180 days to collect the required number of signatures.

Litchman hopes the measure will convince young people, career changers, and others to give teaching a try, particularly in hard-to-fill areas like math, science, and special education.

As for the reasoning behind paying teachers the same as lawmakers, Litchman argues that what we demand of our teachers is comparable to what we expect of our state legislators. But “unlike legislators, being a teacher requires a college education, an advanced degree, and ongoing professional training,” he said “and, unlike legislators, teachers often work in dangerous, challenging, and substandard conditions in schools that can be poorly maintained and woefully underfunded.”

The California Teachers Association is currently examining the measure and hasn’t yet taken a position, according to CTA spokesman Frank Wells.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.