One of the first things we understood even before beginning to research the challenge in recruiting and retaining Jewish educators is that there is no silver bullet. There are multiple reasons that more talented people are not entering the field of education (something we covered in a previous post), but one of the most obvious reasons is the salary.
When we meet with administrators in Jewish schools across the country, we often ask how competitive their faculty salaries are. The answers vary from, “unfortunately, not competitive at all” to “we aim to pay at least 95% of what teachers would make in public school, but often cannot provide the same benefits.” Does having a competitive salary matter? If there are so many other factors that go into choosing teaching as a profession, can raising salaries make a difference? We certainly think so.
Aside from the very real improvement in teachers’ quality of life from a pay increase, there are other benefits to raising teachers’ salaries, including benefits to the students, districts, and the quality of education.
- Increase the pipeline. If the teachers’ salaries are more competitive, more people will choose a career in education. The larger the pipeline, the more competition, and therefore there are better teaching applicants.
- Reduced turnover. People who are better remunerated not only feel more appreciated but are also less likely to leave their positions. This additionally means that teachers can grow within the system and take on leadership positions within the school.
- Fewer teachers taking on additional part-time jobs. Many teachers need to supplement their income through other positions. This can affect their prep time and their commitment to staying in the field.
- Better student performance. A study conducted by economics professors at the University of London and University of Malaga determined that there was a clear relationship between pay and student achievement. In other words, better teacher pay leads to teacher quality and that leads to improved student performance. Their data show that a 10 percent increase in teachers’ pay would produce a 5-10 percent increase in student performance.
Short of a several billion dollar grant to Jewish day schools, we will not be able to solve this issue on a global or even a national level. That said, maybe it is time to start thinking about how we can get a bit more competitive.