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Does the law of supply and demand apply to teachers?

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Does the law of supply and demand apply to teachers? The reason I ask this question is because we have a shortage of math, science, and special education teachers. Will schools eventually join the free enterprise system and reward teachers in these high demand areas with commensurate salaries from the non-teaching world? Recently I have seen signing bonuses for student teachers graduating in these fields. Will these bonuses continue for the career of the teacher?

The reason I mention this is twofold. First, I was visiting with an excellent junior high school science teacher who had been the teacher for my children when they were in school. He was taking classes to become a school administrator to increase his salary and unfortunately leave his position as a science teacher. He commented that if he were in industry he could make three times his teaching salary. Second, I worked at a university where the salaries of the engineering, math and science departments were forced to adapt to the real world. Too many of the faculty from these disciplines left on sabbatical to work with industry and were offered two to three times their salary. When they did not return the university took notice and was forced to accept the market value of their faculty.

Is this the reality for our school system? Is this the answer to our teacher shortage in these areas?

Bob Maxfield
BYU-Idaho Teacher Career Services

1 Comment

Great article. It provides no solution, answers, or opinion but simply states factual, first-hand experience and observation. I am a fourth-year 6th-12th grade Math and Physics certified teacher in Florida. The one time I applied for a math position I recieved the job, but was classified a vocational teacher because I am also certified in a vocational area. I was not able to obtain the next math position I applied for because I was classified as a vocational teacher, even though I was and still am certified in Math and Physics. This is the realm of government controlled employment. That is the issue that must be addressed before market pressures will be apparent in the public schools. "Unions" is the second issue (where seniority is the only condition pay is determined).
As your children's science teacher was inclined, I too am planning to get my MS in educational leadership, and join the ranks of administration, even though I have students and parents (as well as my own administration) tell me they think I am a wonderful teacher, and learning seems easy when I explain it.

I would love for the free market to drive teachers' salaries. I make now one-third what I did my last year as an engineer (but chose to become a teacher so my family could stay in one location while our daughter attended high school). My biggest concern for that happening is, again, the role government plays in public education today.

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