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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Study: Teaching has one of Worst ROIs of Any College Degree

For some, teachers are paid too much. The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Studies has made its name by publishing teacher salaries for years. Heck, even I have used their salary database from time to time. During the Senate Bill 5 fight in 2011, much of the argument from that bill's proponents consisted of proving that public workers are living high on the hog.

However, there were more than a few of us who looked at Bureau of Labor Statistics data for Ohio and found that the vast majority of its teachers weren't exactly living on Easy Street.

Now comes a study from Salary.com -- an imprint of IBM. What they found was that teaching has the sixth-worst return on investment of any college degree. Here's what they say:

Ah teaching. One of the noblest professions. And while it stands to reason we'd pay great sums to the chosen few who shape the minds of future generations, it doesn't quite work out that way.
What the study found was that the average elementary and high school teacher in this country will only receive about an 85% return on their college investment, if they attend a public university. If they attended a private college, that return will be as little as 24%.

There are many in the education policy and reform community on all sides of the debate who believe that teachers need significant pay increases. How those different people want to achieve that salary hike diverges, though. There are those who say we should pay only the best teachers like rock stars. However, without any additional revenue, that will mean driving down the pay for the vast majority of teachers.

Teacher pay is an intensely debated issue that needs addressed. I agree with Secretary Arne Duncan that we need to pay teachers like we pay doctors and lawyers. Teachers in other countries receive huge sums of money and entrance into the profession is highly coveted and competitive. Not surprisingly, student performance is among the highest in these countries.

However, moving toward higher teacher salaries requires more investment in education by state, local and federal governments. And right now, I am not seeing a huge push to infuse school coffers to the point that young men and women who choose our country's most important profession will receive a better return on investment than 25-85%.

Until we make teaching a highly regarded and compensated profession, we may continue to struggle to attract the best and brightest of our youth into the profession. So much of what we need to do in the classroom hinges on the quality of the classroom leader. As a parent, I want that leader to be someone who had to fight to be a teacher just as hard as someone who fought to be a doctor.