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Press Release

Study: Reforming Rigid Salary Structure in Schools Could Ease Teacher Shortages, Benefit Students and Taxpayers

For Immediate Release September 6, 2005

(Alexandria, VA) -- Back-to-school season is the perfect time for education officials to revisit archaic pay rules that are effectively locking high-demand teachers out of classrooms, a study released today from the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) concludes. The non-partisan citizen group's analysis found that schools need to adopt modern merit-based salary structures that help private-sector firms efficiently meet their demands for skilled labor.

"Simply tossing more money at prospective teachers will do very little to raise the quality of education in America," said study author Matt Schultz, who served as an Associate Policy Analyst for NTU. "In order to successfully address teacher shortages in critical specialties, school districts must be free to pay more money for the type of teachers they demand without paying a premium for others."

Recently, labor leaders have intensified their campaign for higher instructor salaries across the board, a costly move the author contends will only further harm Americans who've already been hit with huge local tax hikes (nationwide, property tax collections have jumped 25 percent over the past three years). Schultz believes that a better option is to reform the so-called "single salary schedule" (utilized by 96 percent of school districts) that compensates teachers based on level of education and years of experience rather than field of expertise or competence.

Among the findings of the study:

  • One original justification for the single salary schedule -- pay parity among genders -- now seems counterproductive. Recent research from Professor Caroline Hoxby suggests that rigid pay scales and union domination are more responsible for driving the best and brightest women from teaching than higher compensation in other professions.
  • Because school salary systems largely fail to reward those teachers who work harder or smarter than their colleagues, younger, higher-aptitude Americans have been less likely to enter the field. Between 1963 and 2000, the share of teachers coming from the lowest quarter of colleges (based on SAT scores) increased from 16 percent to 36 percent.
  • Next year, roughly 16 percent of schools' new hires will teach math and science. Thanks to the single salary schedule, for every dollar a school district would use to raise the pay of this high-demand category of teachers, it would be forced to spend $5.25 to compensate all other instructors at the same rate.

Schultz acknowledges that while resistance to changing the single salary schedule will be highest from entrenched labor unions, the task of reform is not impossible. "Teachers will respond to a properly-balanced system of incentives just like the rest of us," Schultz concluded. "Citizens and conscientious educators must stand up to the inflexible unions and get rid of the single salary schedule before any more money is spent propping up a broken system."

NTU is a non-profit organization working for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom at all levels. Note: NTU Issue Brief 155, Single Salary Schedules for Teachers: Sabotaging Public Education and Wasting Taxpayers' Money, is available at