Could Higher Pay for Teachers Be Bad for Your Child's Education?

Does higher pay for teachers translate into better education for students? Not necessarily, some say. In fact, there may be no correlation between higher salaries for teachers and increased student achievement. So is there any real benefit in paying teachers more money?

Find available tutors

teacher pay effectiveness

Attracting the Wrong Crowd?

Long-debated teacher salaries recently made headlines once again when an Alabama senator questioned whether raising pay for educators was the right thing to do. Alabama legislators are currently considering the possibility of increasing teacher pay.

Sen. Shadrack McGill told The Huffington Post in February 2012 that raising teacher pay could 'attract people who aren't called to teach.' The potential result? Worse teachers.

It's Sen. McGill's belief that people are 'called' to teach and would do so regardless of the compensation. Higher salaries, he believes, could draw some people to the profession only for the money. These teachers might not show the interest or compassion many feel is needed to be effective in the classroom.

But, it could be argued, aren't there ineffective teachers in classrooms across the United States right now, ineffective teachers that are protected by tenure? And aren't higher salaries just as enticing to potentially bad teachers as potentially good ones? Still, there's no guarantee that more pay would necessarily attract better or more qualified individuals.

No Real Payoff to Higher Teacher Salaries

The fact is, more pay simply may not increase teacher effectiveness. And if not, then is higher pay really warranted?

In March 2011, Harvard economist Roland Fryer conducted a study regarding the outcome of a teacher incentive experiment in New York City. The $75 million program, which paid bonuses to teachers based on several factors including test scores, graduation rates and student attendance, found that the bonuses had almost no impact on teacher behavior or effectiveness.

What's more, teachers themselves do not cite higher salaries as the way to attract or retain professionals in the field. Better leadership and professional development, for instance, both ranked higher than increased salary in a 2010 survey (more pay came in at number six!).

No Easy Solutions

So what's the answer? There doesn't seem to be an easy one, but there are certainly interesting suggestions.

One came from New Jersey governor Chris Christie in November 2011. Then, Gov. Christie suggested to Fox News that teachers should be paid according to the subject they teach: 'I don't think there's any reason why we shouldn't pay math and science teachers more than gym teachers.' He added that he didn't believe there was a single parent out there who would say 'gym is more important than biology.'

But could this plan wind up hurting children in the long run? The higher-paying teaching jobs might attract the 'better' candidates, while the lower-paying positions such as gym teachers would be harder to fill and might be assumed by those possessing lower qualifications.

Perhaps Sen. McGill is right: that those who teach are 'called' to the profession, and would do so no matter the size of the paycheck. Maybe more attention should be turned to administrative leadership, curriculum development and instructional methods rather than money. If the latter is indeed the 'root of all evil,' then any focus on it may wind up being bad for your child's education.

Did you find this useful? If so, please let others know!

Other Articles You May Be Interested In

  • More Blog Articles
    For-Profit Teacher Certification: Money Over Quality?

    As for-profit teacher certification programs have grown in popularity, their standards and methods are coming under heightened scrutiny. Are these programs more interested in producing high quality teachers or a profit? It may be difficult to decide.

  • More Blog Articles
    College Money Matters

    College is often the first time that young people are responsible for managing their own finances. Read on to learn how to be smart with your money and how to develop good financial habits that will last a lifetime.

We Found 7 Tutors You Might Be Interested In

Huntington Learning

  • What Huntington Learning offers:
  • Online and in-center tutoring
  • One on one tutoring
  • Every Huntington tutor is certified and trained extensively on the most effective teaching methods
In-Center and Online


  • What K12 offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Has a strong and effective partnership with public and private schools
  • AdvancED-accredited corporation meeting the highest standards of educational management
Online Only

Kaplan Kids

  • What Kaplan Kids offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Customized learning plans
  • Real-Time Progress Reports track your child's progress
Online Only


  • What Kumon offers:
  • In-center tutoring
  • Individualized programs for your child
  • Helps your child develop the skills and study habits needed to improve their academic performance
In-Center and Online

Sylvan Learning

  • What Sylvan Learning offers:
  • Online and in-center tutoring
  • Sylvan tutors are certified teachers who provide personalized instruction
  • Regular assessment and progress reports
In-Home, In-Center and Online

Tutor Doctor

  • What Tutor Doctor offers:
  • In-Home tutoring
  • One on one attention by the tutor
  • Develops personlized programs by working with your child's existing homework
In-Home Only


  • What TutorVista offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Student works one-on-one with a professional tutor
  • Using the virtual whiteboard workspace to share problems, solutions and explanations
Online Only

Our Commitment to You

  • Free Help from Teachers

  • Free Learning Materials

  • Helping Disadvantaged Youth