Blog: Latino Ed Beat

More Minority Students Often Means Less Pay for Teachers

No one goes in to teaching to make money, but school districts that can offer better salaries usually attract — and retain — better teachers. So it’s critical to take note of new data showing that teachers in school districts with more minority students are paid less than the average teacher in otherwise comparable districts.

The data, released by the U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights division, is based on a survey of nearly 7,000 school districts in the 2009-2010 OCR’s Civil Rights Data Collection. The schools surveyed have between 20 percent to 80 percent Latino and African-American enrollment.

According to the survey, 59 percent of  districts nationwide paid about $2,500 per year less to teachers in schools serving more Latino and African-American students than to teachers in schools with lower percentages of students of color. The gap offers some insight into how money is spent by school districts, which allocate most of their budgets to teacher salaries.

In a statement issued with the data release, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan noted,“America has been battling inequity in education for decades but these data show that we cannot let up. Children who need the most too often get the least. It’s a civil rights issue, an economic security issue and a moral issue.”

The new data also offer a good opportunity to look at the connections between teacher salary and teacher quality along with the connections between teacher quality and student achievement. One possible story angle would be to compare the average teacher salaries in higher-minority enrollment schools in your districts with schools that have lower percentages. Do they reflect the OCR’s findings? If so, do students in schools where teachers are paid less also produce lower scores on standardized tests?

Another area to explore is teacher turnover. Do higher-minority enrollment schools see a constantly revolving roster of teachers? If so, what effect does that appear to have on classroom learning?

The salary analysis is contained in the second half of a data collection being released by the OCR in two parts. The first, released in June, looked at enrollment, teacher experience, and access to advanced classes. The second part, which will be issued later this fall, will look at SAT and ACT-testing, teacher absences, school discipline and bullying.