Fort Scott, Kan. -- At a special board meeting on Friday afternoon, the USD 234 Board of Education voted to make a significant investment in the teachers who work within the district.
The USD 234 board members voted to give Fort Scott teachers a 3 percent raise for the 2008-'09 school year. Along with the pay raise, the school district will donate $20 per month to participating teacher's health insurance costs.
According to the American Federation of Teachers, www.aft.org, slow increases in teacher salaries are making it difficult for teachers to make ends meet. This is especially true for new teachers who are struggling to pay off student loans, AFT said.
AFT suggests that low salaries in addition to other factors place the teaching profession in jeopardy, adding to the high turnover and recruiting challenges. According to an AFT report published in March of 2007, in order to make teacher salaries competitive with the pay offered in other professions by the end of the decade, school districts would have to give their teachers a 30 percent raise. This would be an additional $15 billion per year invested in the future of children, AFT said.
In 2007, for the first time since 1982, according to AFT, teacher salaries are less than the average earnings of government workers. This puts teachers in the lower paid public-employee category when compared with the pay of the American workforce as a whole.
The state of Kansas was ranked at 38 in the nation in terms of teacher salaries for the 2004-'05 school year, according to AFT.
"The average teacher salary in Kansas for the 2004-'05 school year was $39,351, up from 1.9 percent from the previous year. Kansas was ranked 40th in the nation for beginning teacher salary, at $27,840 an increase of 2.2 percent from 2004," AFT said.
The state of Missouri ranked 41st in the nation for its average teacher salaries in 2004-'05, AFT said.
"The average teacher salary in Missouri for the 2004-'05 school year was $39,064, up 2.2 percent from the previous year. Missouri was ranked 32nd in the nation for beginning teacher salary, at $29,281, an increase of 1.2 percent from 2004," AFT said.
According to the National Education Association, the lower salaries that teachers receive compared to the salaries of other professions, causes school districts to lose qualified teachers to other careers.
"Low teacher pay comes at a high cost for schools and kids, who lose good teachers to better-paying professions. Some 20 percent of new public school teachers leave the profession by the end of the first year, and almost half leave within five years. Pay-related turnover is especially high for minorities, males, and teachers under the age of 30," NEA said.