August 2017 Interim Session Update: Teachers’ Salaries

Education Interim Committee – 8/23/17

Education–it’s important! However, as we all know “action speak louder than words,” and while our legislators continue to speak tough on funding education, their actions continue to say otherwise. During August’s Interim Session, legislators met and discussed the topic of “Educator Salaries and Retention,” and although it seems like everyone and their dog know that teachers in this state don’t get good enough pay, there still seems to be quite a lot of argument on something of universal agreement.

Good News!

There were quite a few experts who appeared at this meeting to give their thoughts on the issue. The Utah Education Policy Center, Utah Data Research Center, Utah Education Association, and Superintendent Shoemaker all came before the committee with the same general message: Teachers in Utah need to be paid more and this problem has a huge impact.

Representative Poulson and others seemed to understand this message, as Poulson gave a personal anecdote describing when she was a teacher, seeing many others leave the profession because of other obligations and were unable to return. Senator Stephenson, who toned down his rhetoric from last month, stated “we need to make sure that the quality of education is not dependent on a student’s zip code”. Overall, the committee agreed that compensation should be increased and agreed to further investigate this issue as the legislative session nears.

Bad News!

Unfortunately, several people went out of their way to make this meeting harder than it otherwise should have been.

Rep. Bruce Cutler, channeling his inner Utah conservative, seemed to blame the issue of teacher shortages on “a lot of industries that are struggling with retentions; employees of companies are switching all the time!” Despite the fact that the board SPECIFICALLY noted how their data would not be affected by people switching districts, he asked for more information. Later, when approached with data from Mr. Solari of the Department of Workforce Services of Utah Data Research Center, he (in)famously stated “I don’t believe that data! I’m not buying it!”…. And there goes a bit of the hope I had in my heart….

Rep. Owens, despite tons of evidence to the contrary, insisted that “we are second to none” (perhaps he meant second to none in low education spending). And although most of the committee agreed on the need for more pay, there seemed to be a lack of planning for what should be done for the future.

My Rant on Education

Okay. It’s pretty obvious that Utah teachers’ get paid terribly. This was made very clear by every single speaker at this committee, each of whom continuously stated that compensation was an issue for competition, overall satisfaction, retention, etc.  So seeing a number of people trying to fight increasing compensation irritates me. A recent study found that most Utah teachers HAVE to take up a second job in order to be financially stable. This by itself should be evidence enough to do something about it!

– Maxton Cline, Karen Shepherd Policy and Advocacy Intern

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