The U.S. spends more per capita on education than every other country in the OECD except Switzerland. Yet teacher salaries are relatively low, especially for early-career teachers, students underperform their OECD peers on international tests, and college students feel their K-12 education was inadequate preparation for higher ed. The solution to all these problems may just be to pay teachers more money, especially in salary rather than expensive fringe benefits.
Our education system has developed an obsession with remediation.
Our education system has developed an obsession with remediation, both for students and teachers. Youngsters fall behind quickly (or start behind) and start an endless round of pull-out instruction, reading groups, remedial courses, and tutoring early. For educators, districts have now beefed up the payroll with instructional coaches, teacher aides, and other paraprofessionals who bring (costly) support and advice but wield little authority. This addiction to support is unhealthy—every dollar spend on remediation and extraneous personnel could be going to pay front-line teachers more.
We released a policy brief yesterday that goes deeper on these points, How School Districts Can Stretch the School Dollar. Public Impact has also weighed in on the importance of high-quality, well-compensated teaching with a fantastic new website and infographic.
Trimming school budgets must involve some cuts to payrolls; staff costs constitute the majority of education spending. They need not hurt classrooms, however. With a more intense focus on rewarding quality teachers, especially undercompensated early-career stars, schools can become more cost-efficient and more effective.