The Value of Education Salaries

The topic of paying our education staff a fair wage is likely to continue to be a hot topic as well as a huge issue due to no new funding for education being available.

Take this story as example, it mentions one of our extraordinary Jeffco teachers.

“Last year, Hannah Bruner taught fifth grade in Jefferson County, Colorado, was an instructor to a homebound student, and tutored another student outside of the classroom. And on top of it all, Bruner worked as a freelance photographer on the side.”

“But Bruner, who is in her fourth year teaching and has her master’s degree in elementary education, still needed help paying her bills. So she applied for government housing assistance, which she qualified for with her annual salary of $49,248, which comes out to a take-home pay of $36,072 after taxes.”

Hannah Bruner’s story isn’t uncommon.

Now, we are well aware that many are attacking administrators as well as teachers for their pay “while working only 9 months out of the year.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Most are contractually off for a period of about 4 to 6 weeks and during that time also have to do their required professional development classes that they pay for out of their own pockets. Additionally, they are in their classrooms during the “summer” which happens to be unpaid time, setting up for the following year of students.

There isn’t bloated administration anywhere in Colorado and we gave you the facts about that:

While we look at educator salaries, we also have to consider that these are professionals who have earned a degree in higher education. To do a comparison of what you might expect to earn with higher education in the metro area, this is one resource available:

Hannah is a great example of why so few want to enter the teaching profession and why so many are leaving. She has a Master’s and could be earning $78K instead of her $49K if she chose another profession. To be fair, the numbers above are an average. Many industries pay much more than $78K for this level of education and our low wage earners with higher education, like teachers, lower the average for the state. If she had chosen to get her Master’s in Business Administration, the average salary would be $94K.

Should your own child choose to further their education with a college degree, would you advise them to enter the education profession with the possibility of requiring government assistance to survive or would you steer them elsewhere?

In most industries, you may start with a lower salary after earning your degree and entering the workforce, but that salary increases fairly rapidly with experience. This is not true for educators –

“It’s something Hannah Bruner relates to all too well. “I can’t be the teacher I want to be,” she told INSIDER. “I love what I do, and I actually really do enjoy some of the jobs I’ve done to supplement my income, but it takes away from my main mission as a teacher. I just know that I can’t be the teacher that the students in my classroom need, and the teacher they deserve, because I need to leave as soon as the bell rings.”

5A is going to be a bit of a help, though small. 50% of funds will support our ability to compete with neighboring school districts to hire and retain great teachers and staff at all schools. That means $16,500,000 will be made available. We have 14,000 employees (not just teachers!) If we divide the extra funds equally (they won’t be equal due to the salary schedules for various positions) and divide by 12 for the 12 months out of the year we pay our staff, everyone could expect about $98 per month before taxes. For some, this number will be higher and for some, it will be lower. This is simplistic and not accurate but gives you an idea of just how little of a difference this increase will make.

While it is something, and a step in the right direction, it most certainly doesn’t fix the underlying problem of valuing of education staff or keeping them in the field of education.

“They say, if you want to know what a community values, look at how its children are treated.  If you want a sense of what a community hopes for the future, look at how it values its schools.”