Teachers’ wages are on the decline while stress levels rise compared to other professionals

Dive Brief:

  • According to a recent Rand Corp. survey, teachers working in early 2024 reported an increase of nine hours per week, totaling 53 hours, and earned an average of $18,000 less in base pay compared to other professionals.

  • Double the number of teachers experienced frequent job-related stress or burnout compared to other professionals, with three times as many teachers struggling to cope with this stress. Only 36% of teachers, in contrast to 51% of professionals in other fields, deemed their base pay sufficient.

  • Black teachers were more prone to reporting lower base pay than their counterparts and were notably less likely to find their base pay adequate. Female teachers faced significantly higher rates of job-related stress and burnout, alongside inferior base pay compared to their male colleagues.

Dive Insight:

Since 2021, teachers have consistently reported lower well-being compared to other professionals, as per the Rand report.

Teacher burnout, pay, and turnover have long been focal concerns in the K-12 sector, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which normalized extended and arduous working hours.

“State and district education leaders swiftly implemented policies to recruit and retain teachers,” highlighted the Rand report. “While many of these policies entailed pay raises, they failed to address working conditions, despite evidence indicating the necessity of both aspects for enhancing teacher retention.”

Tangible measures like teacher bonuses, pay hikes, class size restrictions, and other recruitment and retention strategies were incorporated into the operational plans of numerous school systems utilizing COVID relief funding. A 2022 report from FutureEd at Georgetown University revealed that up to $20 billion of American Rescue Plan funds were allocated nationwide to address these concerns.

Despite these efforts, district leaders are still grappling with challenges such as teacher pay and turnover, particularly as the relief funding from the pandemic tapers off.

In the Rand report, managing student behavior, low salaries, and administrative tasks like paperwork and evaluations were cited by teachers as key sources of job-related stress. Teachers deeming their current salaries inadequate expressed the need for an average base pay increase of about $16,000.

Black and Hispanic teachers displayed greater inclination than White teachers to signify their intent to leave their positions or the profession by the end of the 2023-24 academic year.

“This marks the fourth consecutive year that RAND’s data raises concerns regarding high stress and low pay levels among teachers,” mentioned Sy Doan, the report’s lead author and a Rand Corp. policy researcher. “Whilst teacher well-being appears to have stabilized at pre-pandemic levels, our data pose questions about the sustainability of the profession, particularly for Black and female teachers.”

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