Equalizing Funding For Education Will Help Retain Quality Teachers

Our guest blogger is Theodora Chang, Education Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Recent education news coverage has focused mainly on firing teachers without much consideration for ways to attract and keep good teachers in the classroom. New research released today by two Stanford researchers — and funded by the Center for American Progress — shows that money makes a big difference, especially when it comes to high-poverty schools:

In California, for example, a 1 percentage point increase in average adjusted teacher salaries is associated with a 4 percent reduction in teacher turnover. In New York, a 1 percent increase in median adjusted teacher salaries is associated with a 2 percent reduction in the proportion of inexperienced teachers.

Such research is critical because it gets us closer to understanding how adjusting teacher salaries can help us keep effective educators. We know that teacher quality is one of the most critical factors in closing the achievement gap, but we are far from reaching our goal of providing every child with a high-quality teacher and an excellent education.

The report also shows that inequitable teacher salaries contribute to an inequitable distribution of teachers. In other words, students who attend high-poverty schools are less likely to have good teachers because their schools can’t pay teachers very well, and they tend to struggle more academically as a result.

Federal and state-level policy makers can do a number of things to make sure that there are effective teachers in every classroom. As Congress moves forward with reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind, it should distribute funds more fairly across states. Currently, federal funds are allocated in ways that often favor wealthier states.

State funding should be allocated to districts through formulas weighted for specific student needs, such as poverty, limited English proficiency, and special education status.

Equalizing resources at state and federal levels will ensure that high-poverty schools can compete for the best teachers alongside affluent schools, so that we are one step closer to getting qualified and effective teachers in all communities.