University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Raising Teacher Salaries

In The View from the OEP on January 16, 2019 at 1:26 pm

As the legislative session began this week, Rep. Bruce Cozart, R-Hot Springs, introduced a bill that would raise the minimum public school teacher salary in Arkansas from $31,800 to $36,000 over the next four years. Here at OEP we expect the bill to pass, but suggest that while the $60 million investment will lead to greater financial stability for teachers in the affected districts, it likely won’t increase outcomes for their students.

We pulled together some information about which school districts would be raising their salaries and how many teachers would be affected by the raises. We then ask the most important question (at least to us)- “Will raising teacher salaries benefit students?” To get an idea, we looked into the relationship in Arkansas between teacher salaries and teacher supply and turnover, as well as student outcomes of achievement and academic growth.

Which school districts would be affected?

According to the latest teacher salary analysis from the ADE, 33 school districts currently pay the minimum salary for a first year teacher. These districts pay $31,800 to a teacher with a Bachelor’s degree, and $36,450 to a teacher with a Master’s degree. While salaries increase in one-third of these districts, 22 districts continue to pay the minimum salary for teachers with 15 years experience: $38,550 to a teacher with a Bachelor’s degree, and $43,950 to a teacher with a Master’s.

Figure 1: Districts Paying the Minimum Salary, 2017-18.

salary

There are an additional 51 districts that are paying more than the minimum salary, but less than the salary proposed in the bill ($32,800) These districts would have to increase their salaries to meet that proposed minimum.

How many teachers would get raises?

About 2,500 teachers work in the 33 districts that pay a minimum starting salary.  That’s 6.5% of teachers in the state. An additional 4,200 work in districts that would need to raise their salary to meet the new minimum, which means 18% of teachers could see raises.

Would the raises help recruit and retain teachers?

There is good research that recruiting high-quality teachers and retaining them can have a positive effect on students’ learning, but would raising minimum salaries in Arkansas salaries help recruit and retain teachers?

OEP research on Arkansas Teacher Supply found that beginning teacher salary was not a significant predictor of teacher supply.  While districts paying the highest teacher salaries reported receiving more teacher applications than lower paying ones, once other factors like district location were taken into consideration, teacher salary had no effect on the number of applications recieved per open teaching position.

The Arkansas Department of Education has developed a measure of workforce stability for each district. We compared the measure between districts paying the minimum salary and districts paying more, and found a slight difference (minimum =86.9% and higher paying districts= 89.9%). There was also just a slight correlation between base salary and the stability index (r=0.18), so it doesn’t seem that raising the minimum salary would have an impact on the stability of the teacher workforce at the school.

Would teacher raises help kids learn more?

We dug into the relationship between starting teacher salary and student outcomes like academic achievement and academic growth, and found essentially no relationship. Kids in Arkansas learn (or don’t) regardless of the district salary schedule.

For academic achievement, as measured by the 2017-18 ACT Aspire scores, districts with the minimum salary had achievement scores ranging from better than 98 percent of districts statewide to worse than 73 percent. As presented in the figure below, there was a low correlation between achievement and beginning teacher salary (r=0.28), indicating that paying teachers more doesn’t translate into higher test scores for students.

Figure 2: District Starting Salary and Student Achievement, 2017-18.

salary ach

For (our favorite!) academic growth, there was also little relationship with minimum teacher salary.  As we have discussed before, growth is measured by the 2017-18 ACT Aspire scores and reflects how much students improved compared to how much we thought they would improve based on their prior test scores. Districts with the minimum salary had growth scores ranging from better than 99 percent of districts statewide to worse than 77 percent.

As presented in the figure below, there was a low correlation between achievement and beginning teacher salary (r=0.26), indicating that paying teachers more doesn’t translate into better academic growth for students.

Figure 3: District Starting Salary and Student Academic Growth, 2017-18.

salary growth

We want to shout out the districts with the top 5% of growth in the state.  We are including the beginning teacher salary so you can see for yourself how varied pay is among these high-growth districts. We also include the district % FRL and average class size to demonstrate that high student academic growth can happen anywhere!

district salary growth

Hooray for the teachers in these districts that are getting it done for kids!  It’s also important to note that the highest paying districts in the list have the largest average class sizes. This reflects what OEP’s teacher salary research found- that class size was one of the most important factors in teacher pay.

In summary, here at OEP we understand that raising teacher salaries is popular, but suggest that while the $60 million investment will lead to greater financial stability for the teachers in the affected districts, it likely won’t increase outcomes for their students. 

 


Q and A about Arkansas teacher salaries

Q: What is the average teacher salary in Arkansas?

  • $49,615 was the average salary for classroom teachers in Arkansas for school districts including charters (2016-17).

Q: Are teacher salaries in Arkansas higher or lower than in other states?

  • Arkansas’s average teacher salary ranks 40th in the nation but increases to 22nd after adjusting for our state’s low cost of living.
  • Compared to surrounding states, Arkansas’s average teacher salary ranks 3rd, moving up to 2nd among our neighbors after adjusting for cost of living.

Q: Where does the money for teacher salaries come from?

  • Arkansas schools are funded through a funding matrix, which determines the per-student cost of an adequate education. In 2016-17, all schools received $6,646 per student, of which 69% was associated with salaries and benefits for classroom teachers, pupil support staff, school principal, and school secretary. At this funding level, the average teacher salary (and 25% for benefits) could be covered by a class of 13 students. It is important to note, however, that although there is a matrix for funding, there is no matrix for spending, and districts can allocate the funds as they choose.

Q: Who decides how much teachers get paid?

  • Teacher salaries in Arkansas are determined by local school boards. There is a minimum salary enacted by Arkansas Code § 6-17-2403 ($31,400 for 2017-18). The minimum salary has increased in each of the last four years, and the vast majority of districts in the state (87%) pay higher salaries than legally required.  Arkansas teachers typically receive an increase in salary each year and additional increases for further education credits.

Q: What kinds of districts pay higher teacher salaries?

  • Given that districts all receive the same per-pupil funding from the state (read more here), we wondered WHY districts were paying teachers such different salaries. Even after we controlled for differences in experience and education of teachers, and median income of counties, there were still substantial variations in pay between districts. You can read the details in the full report or shorter brief, but we found that districts with lower student : teacher ratios paid lower salaries. In a district that employs 50 teachers, if each teacher’s class was increased by one student, the average teacher salary would be expected to increase by about $1,815, holding all other factors equal.

 

  1. Can you explain how the average class size is figured in your growth score chart? The growth score for Salem looks like for the elementary, but the class size average is a lot larger than 14.

    I really appreciate all the hard work the OEP puts into breaking down all the data…keep up the good work!

    Thanks,

    *Corey Johnson* *Elementary Principal* Salem School District 313 Hwy 62 E STE 4 Salem, AR 72576 *Phone (870) 895-2456* *Fax (870) 895-5623*

  2. Kudos to everyone whose work contributed to this blog post! Really insightful analysis and clear explanations as well.

    Follow-up questions/curiosities:
    -Is there a way to visually represent the starting and average salaries for districts across the state? This could help reveal general geographic trends as well as bright and dim spots within them.
    -The data in this blog post seems focused on traditional school districts across the state. Do we have insights into similar the salary and student achievement data for public charters and private schools as well?

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