From Eric Davis, District 5 representative on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education:
Public school teacher pay is too low. The governor’s plan to increase pay in the early years is a good start, but like nearly all proposals so far, is a partial approach disconnected from the realities of today’s workplace. What is needed is a comprehensive approach.
Today's teacher employment proposition that “we will not pay you much but stay long enough and you can get a nice retirement,” makes school systems uncompetitive for the teaching talent our students need. Every teacher pays for retirement directly through contributions or indirectly through depressed current pay. But only a small percentage of teachers stay to retirement.
Numerous studies document that today’s workers are increasingly mobile with Millennials changing jobs six or more times in a career. Given the choice between a salary of $30,800 and potential retirement in 20 years versus $45,000 today and building your retirement via a 401(k), I bet many would choose the latter. We are losing the talent war, not just with school districts but with every industry that offers a more compelling employment proposition.
A comprehensive approach starts with two basic tenets: raise base pay to the national average and create a competitive total compensation system. For example, pay entry teachers on the order of $45,000 with the opportunity to save for their retirement thru a 401(k) or similar plan.
To transition to this plan, we must honor existing commitments to vested teachers, allowing them to remain in the current system, while providing an opportunity for any existing teacher that desires to opt in to the new system. Over a multi-year transition period, we move from today's non-competitive, archaic system to one that will recruit and retain the talent needed to provide an effective teacher in every classroom. Let’s take the long view.