Bridging the Opportunity Divide

Meet the School Chief Who’s Offering Double-Digit Raises to Teachers

December 4, 2014
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Meet the School Chief Who’s Offering Double-Digit Raises to Teachers
Students look on as teachers protest for higher wages outside of Oakland High School, April 29, 2010. Oakland's new superintendent plans to raise teachers' pay after years of stagnation. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The new Oakland Unified School District superintendent has a bold plan to support his educators.

We all know that good teachers matter. It’s just common sense that a child learns more with an outstanding educator leading the classroom.

That’s why Antwan Wilson, Oakland Unified School District’s new superintendent, has come up with a bold move to retain and attract the best and the brightest teachers. As SFGate reports, Wilson’s “Pathway to Excellence” plan includes a 10 percent raise for teachers over three years.

“Paying teachers is extremely important,” Wilson said in a press conference. “We have a double-digit (pay raise) offer on the table right now. On salaries, we are behind, but in benefits, we’re way ahead. But when you add those together, we’re still behind.”

Oakland, Calif. district teachers make less than their counterparts in Alameda County, according to the Oakland Tribune. (The median salary for Oakland’s public teachers is $59,782). Funds for the raise will stem from an extra $12 million the Oakland district received thanks to California’s schools funding program, according to the publication. Counter proposals will be considered next month.

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“If I am a teacher, what’s going to attract me to this district is how I was made to feel special,” Wilson added. “When we recruit you, did we talk to you and were we excited about you, or did we hire you and just forget about you? We need to think about their best interests, the best fit for them and how we made them feel successful.”

It’s no secret that the men and women who are trusted with educating America’s youth don’t get paid very much. The average salary for public school teachers in the United States is $56,643 a year, with many teachers making much less than that. By raising salaries, it incentivizes teachers to stay, and it also attracts new teachers to come aboard.

You might be surprised how big of a difference a good teacher makes. According to a (controversial) 2011 study cited in TIME magazine’s recent cover story, replacing a poorly performing teacher with a good one could increase students’ lifetime earnings by $250,000 per classroom. And as we previously reported, the (rigorously screened and highly experienced) teachers at an experimental charter school in New York City called The Equity Project (TEP) have a stunning salary of $125,000 annually. The result of their Wall Street compensation? Students have higher test scores and are accelerating their education; a Mathematica Policy Research says that TEP students learned in four years what would’ve taken more than five and a half years at other schools.

It’s clear that a good teacher can make a big difference in a student’s life. If we want to put the best educators in America’s classrooms, it’s time they are given every penny they are worth.

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