Commentary: Where To Find Poorly Paid Teachers

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, September 23, 2005

It's long been known that teachers with the least amount of experience tend to teach in schools with the most high-risk kids - those from poor families. A new study documents that teachers in poor schools get paid less as well. Duh.

Researchers collected teacher pay data from 12 school districts in California, including Elk Grove, Sacramento City and San Juan. They found that teachers in high minority, low income schools earned thousands of dollars less on average than teachers assigned to schools with student bodies drawn from more affluent families.

None of this surprises me. For years education reformers have tried to steer experienced teachers to tough school environments where they are needed most, but teacher's unions have resisted, successfully pushing to give teachers authority to assign themselves based on seniority. A pay gap is the inevitable result. Also, school districts themselves have failed to keep campuses in poor neighborhoods as safe, clean, or well equipped as they need to be to attract the best teachers.

A bill on the governor's desk, SB-678, would require school districts to disclose average teacher salary by school each year. That won't close the pay gap but it will shine a light on it - and that, at least, is progress.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.