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Commentary: Raising teacher pay will pay off

LA School Report | March 9, 2015

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By Dick Startz and Dan Goldhaber | Los Angeles Times

In Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach, high-tech companies help drive the California economy by paying high salaries to driven, talented employees whose productivity more than compensates for their high pay. But California’s public schools are stuck in the old mode of paying modest salaries for modest results from teachers, most of whom are talented and very hardworking. A smarter way? Open two dozen schools, pay the teachers $125,000 annually, give them more professional responsibility and expect more from them, and then see what happens.

Why now and why invest in teacher salaries? The state’s budget is finally recovering from a devastating recession. That makes new investments in education possible for the first time since the 1990s, when the state started reducing class size. That move in 1996 has now cost more than $25 billion. Unfortunately, the student achievement payoff for this investment appears to have been quite small. One study of the California’s class size reduction found that that it increased the number of third-graders reading above the national average by a meager 2 percentage points. That’s very little bang for very many bucks.

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