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Should math and science teachers get paid more?

A bill introduced by Sen. Gloria Romero would make it easier for school districts to reward their experimentally and numerically inclined teachers.

scienceteacher2.jpgState law now requires districts to compensate teachers according to a uniform salary schedule, with pay increases based on years of service and continuing education.  (That is, unless the union and the district negotiate other criteria for the salary schedule in the collective bargaining agreement.)

This law would allow districts — with the approval of their respective employee unions — to funnel some general fund money into the paychecks of science and math teachers in schools with the lowest state API rankings (1, 2 or 3). 

Proponents say the extra compensation could help offset a shortage in math and science teachers, which is expected to reach 33,000 in the next 10 years, according to a study cited in the bill.

Mathematics and science classrooms, particularly in
low-performing schools, are increasingly being staffed by
educators who are underprepared to teach the academic content
in the state’s rigorous content standards and to prepare pupils to
receive a high-quality mathematics and science education so that
they can participate in the state’s science, technology, engineering,
and mathematics workforce. 

Interestingly enough, the bill doesn’t include special education teachers, which I understand are also in short supply. Also, there will be much less money for such incentives if districts receive some $4 billion less than expected from the state in 2008-09.

And, of course, the provision wouldn’t take effect in a district unless its teacher’s union agrees to it. (In the past, the Oakland Education Association has taken a strong stance against differential pay. Last year, its executive board refused to endorse a grant application for more than $18 million in cash bonuses because the money would be distributed to some teachers and schools, but not all.)

Do you think higher pay is key to hiring and keeping more top-notch science and math teachers at low-performing schools? Does it make sense to focus on certain academic areas perceived to be in the greatest need, or should all teachers be paid according to the same criteria?

image from 161′s Web site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Nextset

    There is a market price for talent. If the teachers of these subjects are paid better to do other things there’s no reason to expect them to work at OUSD. It may be required to have additional pay for certain subjects or qualifications if you expect to have them. This is another reason why certain subjects should only be taught to those students who have the pre-requisites to take advanced coursework, because the teachers and labs are too expensive and the class seats must be rationed.

    At Junion College level we see this in the Nursing and Police Academy classes where more people want to enroll than they have instructors and class seats. The districts have to slap on pre-requisites to get the numbers down to manageable levels (test scores, reccomendations, criminal backgrounding, employment experience, etc.).

    Or you can treat subjects like Driver’s Ed & Driver’s Training and just eliminate them. Not all schools carry advanced classes anyway.

  • Teri Gruenwald

    I teach Language Arts (English) and History at a middle school in a different district, although I am an Oakland resident and my two sons attend an Oakland elementary school. I am opposed to differential pay for math and science teachers. I believe that English/Language Arts teachers bear the greatest burden as teachers. We have the most standards to cover: reading, writing, speaking, and listening (and under each category, there are numerous standards). Additionally, if we want our students to be fluent, articulate writers, we need to teach them how to write. This involves having students do numerous drafts of essays and having individual conferences with students to work with them on their essays. English teachers who teach 5 classes can have more than 150 essays to read and respond to. This is not only time-consuming, it creates tremendous burn-out. Yet no one ever discusses paying English teachers more for the work we do. I believe if districts need more qualified math and science teachers, then they should pay for the teachers to do the coursework to become qualified. And, as a matter of course, all teachers throughout the state would benefit from higher salaries, better benefits, smaller classes, and paraprofessionals in our classrooms.

  • Carissa Weintraub

    Teri,
    It’s a dangerous game to begin saying, “I do more work than you do because I teach ___________.” I could give you numerous examples as to why I think that science teachers do more work than other teachers. And I won’t even get started on the standards that we are supposed to teach in biology–on top of all the literacy strategies that we are now required to include, i.e. academic vocabulary, correct paragraph forms, etc. Aren’t students supposed to learn this in their English class? And see how this could get very ugly, very quickly?

    Besides, the issue, as I understand it, is not that science teachers should be paid more because they do more. The issue is, how do we fill these vacant positions in math and science?

    California paid for 2/3 of my education to get a credential because I teach biology. So there are already financial programs out there to encourage people to teach science.

    And, btw, I agree that there is a tremendous amount of work in teaching English. I also agree that all teachers throughout the state would benefit from higher salaries & better benefits.

    Pitting ourselves against one another is not the way to go.

  • Sue

    Thank you Carissa. Well said.

    When I found out what average teacher salaries are, I was horrified.

    I work in a cubicle-farm facing a computer monitor with my hands on a keyboard all day long. The biggest challenge I face is ergonomics – no carpel tunnel syndrome, so far. (I’d cross my fingers when I type that, but that’s a risky idea.) I make about 50% more than that teacher average – supporting my family of four on one income – and my earnings are below average in my career field…

    I couldn’t do what teachers do every day. It’s simply not in me. Teachers *should* be better paid than I am. All teachers, in every subject, preschool through high school.

    Every time there’s a chance to say that, I say it. We don’t appreciate our teachers enough, and we’re expecting them to build/create our society’s future, and we don’t even pay them enough, and we keep asking them to do more, and more, and more in the classroom without providing any more resources.

  • Pingback: State law lets districts pay math and science teachers more - The Education Report - Katy Murphy covers what’s going on in the Oakland schools

  • Steven

    To an extent this is already happening. I moved schools to teach math at a low-performing school, and I was offered a $5,000 bonus to teach at this Central Valley school. To my understanding, the district received a grant to fund recruitment of math teachers, and didn’t need union approval…but I’m not complaining.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Steven:

    Romero SB 1660 was not connected to your $5,000 bonus because SB 1660 money has not yet been forwarded and the money is not new money but teacher professional development money currently be sent to districts.

    Relocating for a one-time $5,000 bonus that will be eaten into with moving costs seems problematic.

    The Senate amended bill that was recently signed by the Governor provides that professional development being received by the district can be used to restructure the teacher salary schedule in three areas: special education, science, and math. The Oakland budget for last year would have to be looked at to see how much money was available for teacher professional development last year to get an approximate figure. Governor could revise how much he puts in the budget at the May revise. Seems complicated but I think it is complicated.

    I placed the Senate amended version of SB 1660 below.

    Jim Mordecai

    BILL NUMBER: SB 1660 AMENDED
    BILL TEXT

    AMENDED IN SENATE MARCH 27, 2008

    INTRODUCED BY Senator Romero

    FEBRUARY 22, 2008

    An act to add Section 45031.5 to the Education Code,
    relating to teachers.

    LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

    SB 1660, as amended, Romero. Teachers: compensation.
    Existing law requires the governing board of a school district to
    fix and order paid the compensation of persons in public school
    service requiring certification qualifications employed by the
    governing board. The governing board of each school district also is
    required to adopt, cause to be printed, and make available to each
    certificated employee a schedule of salaries to be paid.
    Each person employed by a school district in a position requiring
    certification qualifications, except a person employed in a position
    requiring administrative or supervisory credentials, is required to
    be classified on the salary schedule on the basis of uniform
    allowance for years of training and years of experience, except if a
    salary schedule based on criteria other than that uniform allowance
    is negotiated and mutually agreed upon by a public school employer
    and the exclusive representative of the employees. Public school
    employers and exclusive representatives of credentialed teachers are
    encouraged to recognize teacher contributions to improving pupil
    achievement, provide incentives to teachers to accept teaching
    assignments in areas of highest need, and recognize relevant
    professional experience on the salary schedule in lieu of units and
    degrees or in lieu of teaching experience.
    This bill would express the Legislature’s intent to
    enact legislation to require the State Department of Education to
    work with public school employers in schools ranked in deciles 1 to
    3, inclusive, on the Academic Performance Index to consider planning
    a schedule of teacher compensation based on criteria different from
    existing schedules if those employers have reached mutual agreement
    with the exclusive representative of the credentialed teachers to
    consider that compensation option provide that,
    notwithstanding any other provision of law, if a local educational
    agency and the exclusive representative of the credentialed employees
    negotiate and mutually agree, any funds received by the d
    istrict from the state that are included in computations required by
    the constitutional minimum funding guarantee for the public schools
    may be used to compensate new and existing mathematics and science
    teachers in schools ranking in decile 1, 2, or 3 of the Academic
    Performance Index in a manner separate from the uniform allowance for
    years of training and years of experience .
    Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: no.
    State-mandated local program: no.

    THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

    SECTION 1. The Legislature finds and declares all
    of the following:
    (a) California’s public schools face an existing and projected
    severe shortage of mathematics and science teachers.
    (b) Recent reports on the shortage reveal a shortfall of
    approximately 33,000 new mathematics and science teachers over the
    next decade.
    (c) Mathematics and science classrooms, particularly in
    low-performing schools, are increasingly being staffed by educators
    who are underprepared to teach the academic content in the state’s
    rigorous content standards and to prepare pupils to receive a
    high-quality mathematics and science education so that they can
    participate in the state’s science, technology, engineering, and
    mathematics workforce.
    (d) Addressing the mathematics and science teacher shortage
    requires multiple strategies, including, but not necessarily limited
    to, an expansion and strengthening of pathways to encourage talented
    individuals to become mathematics and science teachers, as well as
    new incentives and ongoing support to new and existing mathematics
    and science teachers so that they will choose to stay in California’s
    public elementary and secondary education classrooms.
    (e) Recent legislative efforts have focused on improving
    educational achievement in schools, especially those in the lowest
    deciles. In order to assist school districts to narrow the
    achievement gap among the lowest-performing subgroups of pupils and
    those who consistently meet university admissions requirements, other
    strategies are needed.
    SEC. 2. Section 45031.5 is added to the
    Education Code , to read:
    45031.5. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if a local
    educational agency and the exclusive representative of the
    credentialed employees negotiate and mutually agree, any funds
    received by the district from the state that are included in
    computations required by Section 8 of Article XVI of the California
    Constitution, and deemed to be “General Fund revenues appropriated
    for school districts,” as defined in subdivision (c) of Section
    41202, and included within the “total allocations to school districts
    and community college districts from General Fund proceeds of taxes
    appropriated pursuant to Article XIII B,” as defined in subdivision
    (e) of Section 41202, may be used to compensate new and existing
    mathematics and science teachers in schools ranking in decile 1, 2,
    or 3 of the Academic Performance Index in a manner separate from the
    uniform allowance for years of training and years of experience.

    SECTION 1. In order to add to the educational
    options for improving the extremely low academic performance of
    pupils in schools ranked in deciles 1 to 3, inclusive, on the
    Academic Performance Index, it is the intent of the Legislature to
    enact legislation that would require the State Department of
    Education to work with public school employers that have schools
    ranked in deciles 1 to 3, inclusive, of the Academic Performance
    Index to consider planning a schedule of teacher compensation based
    on criteria different from existing schedules if those employers have
    reached a mutual agreement with the exclusive representative of the
    credentialed teachers to consider basing compensation on criteria
    different from existing schedules.

  • Trudy

    I agree with Carissa. I’m in a credential program now and on my way to becoming an English teacher. Half of the time I want to drop out because of the rigorous course load and how everybody talks about teaching the “standards.” But here I am, already in debt from my undergrad and still struggling to make ends meet to pull it together student teaching and we hear about the budget cuts and now this? Paying math and science teachers more than the humanities teachers? How will I get out of this debt, too? When in fact-we should be focusing on the real reason I am here, and what gets me through it all-the kids. The kids are what make me want to teach, not the subject matter.