GAE says teacher salaries need to be competitive to stave off looming teacher shortages

For Immediate Release
September 6, 2018

ATLANTA -- “Georgia simply can no longer afford to apply band-aids to the issue of attracting and retaining quality teachers for Georgia’s 1.6 million students if it doesn’t take the salary and benefits issue seriously,” said Charlotte Booker, president of the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE). “While teachers certainly appreciated the two-percent increase that was passed last year, at a minimum Georgia needs to at least reach the national average of $60,483 (according to the National Education Association). And the recent decision to freeze health insurance rates loomed large in making that, at least for this year, an actual take home increase.”

In making her remarks, Booker is referencing a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution report which indicated that more than 2,000 teachers left the classroom before the year was over in metro Atlanta due to teacher morale, pay, and benefits.

Georgia’s average teacher salary currently stands at $56,329, but Booker says come next year’s legislative session, GAE will be calling for a minimum beginning teacher salary of at least $40,000 for all new teachers that would be applied to the state salary schedule. Currently, Georgia’s beginning salary is $34,827 which ranks it 40th in the nation. She explains that many local school systems have to supplement salaries in order to hire new teachers. “If the state expects to recruit and retain the brightest and best teachers, it must address the beginning salary of new teachers,” she said.

However, even if this is realized, Booker points to a large wrench in the works. “All but two school systems do not have to pass along salary increases. The others have the option to waive the passing of state salary increases to their teachers, and unfortunately, some do. GAE will be asking legislators to make it mandatory to pass along state salary increases for teachers and other education workers. The reports we hear from systems throughout the state is ‘we need teachers.’ Our children need more highly qualified teachers, but there is a real shortage and there exists a very real competitive marketplace.’”

Georgia currently reports teacher shortages in the areas of special education, foreign language, mathematics, and science.
Booker also cites the results of a recent poll from Phi Delta Kappa that indicates a majority of parents would not like their children to go into the teaching profession as to why it’s time to get serious about the teaching profession. “As a 25-year-plus veteran teacher, to hear that was very disheartening, but regrettably not very surprising,” she said. “For a moment let’s remove the teaching label and just look at the profession descriptions from the survey. ‘Dangerous, low salary and benefits, low social respect, physical and mentally exhausting, overworked, underappreciated, chaos in the workplace, thankless, doesn’t make enough to live in the community they work in.’ And there’s this one –‘I would not want my future child to be treated poorly or paid less than they deserve for a job that is as difficult as this one is.’ Not knowing what profession this was, could you blame a parent for not wanting their child to go in to it?”

“Most Georgia public school teachers would say they experienced one or more of those descriptions,” says Booker. “But unfortunately, too many experience too many of those descriptions. And there is no doubt that the profession overall has been negatively impacted by low salaries and lack of respect. Because of this, we as a state and nation are now beginning to reap the consequences of those who have vilified and attempted to choke the life out of the public school teaching profession. Those consequences are coming home to roost in the form of a looming critical teacher shortage that of which we are beginning to see the vestiges of around the state in the guise of teacher position vacancies.”