28 Mar Valuing Teachers
Teachers are transformative: not only responsible for imparting academic mastery, a great teacher also builds self-confidence and character in her students. Most people can name at least one teacher that made a major difference in their life. Few, if any, jobs are as important.
Those choosing a career in teaching should be recognized for the importance of the work and prepared to do it well from the start. This starts with attracting highly qualified individuals into the profession and ensuring preparation programs are of the highest quality.
To attract and retain great teachers, as in any profession, salaries should also be competitive. Yet, Nebraska pays starting teachers less than all but four states. This discrepancy in pay cannot be explained away by low spending on K-12 education alone. In fact, Nebraska spends more per student than most states and more than the national average.
As an example, according to the National Education Association, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, and Wyoming, all pay starting teachers more than Nebraska:
Starting teacher salaries:
Nebraska – $30,844
Colorado – $32,126
Kansas – $33,389
Iowa – $33,226
Wyoming – $43,269
Of these states, only Wyoming spends more per student than Nebraska.
These figures are troubling. New teachers, particularly in the most rural parts of Nebraska, are often drawn to neighboring states based on pay alone, compounding teaching shortages in high need areas. Many young people entering the profession also choose to leave the state for programs that recognize effectiveness, allowing young teachers to earn higher salaries earlier in their career.
In recognizing the importance of great teachers for every student, Nebraska should move towards policies and practices that not only ensure the most qualified individuals enter and remain in the profession, but also that these individuals are well compensated for the crucial work they do.