Teacher Compensation Considerations

September 06, 2022 • Keith McLemore

Teacher Compensation Considerations

A recent survey from the EdWeek Research Center found teachers report a preference for inflation-adjusted salary increases over other financial perks.

One of the more interesting findings was that one-time bonuses of less than $2,000 were the least likely to keep a teacher from leaving. This is especially enlightening for public school entities considering the use of such bonuses in lieu of a general pay increase as these one-time bonuses are often $2,000 or less. Another area where this finding is likely to affect entities is signing bonuses, which generally range from $1,000 to $5,000 for the typical entity. The statewide median for such bonuses is currently $2,000.

The survey results show there was a notable shift in attitudes for larger bonus amounts; 14 percent said they would not leave if the one-time bonus were between $2,000 and $5,000, while 26 percent would stay if the bonus was between $5,000 and $10,000. Interestingly, free or subsidized housing (14 percent) and additional paid time off (13 percent) were two of the weakest motivators.

Other findings

Teachers were asked to look at a list of 20 financial policies and choose those that would make them most likely to stay in teaching long-term. The top five selections were:

  • Salary increases that exceed cost of living increases (59 percent)
  • Salary increases that cover cost of living increases (50 percent)
  • Pension and defined benefit increases (39 percent)
  • Out-of-pocket health care expense reductions (37 percent)
  • New educator tax credits (30 percent)

The bottom five selections included:

  • One-time bonus under $2,000 (5 percent)
  • Cannot think of any financial policies/Plans to leave are not related to finances (7 percent)
  • Cannot think of any financial policies/No plans to leave (7 percent)
  • Paid maternity/paternity leave (8 percent)
  • Other (8 percent)

Practical applications

Although it is unlikely that any given entity has enough money to provide all teachers with bonuses in the dollar ranges that appear to be the most likely to retain them, it is worth keeping these results in mind when strategizing what you pay for signing bonuses and shortage area stipends, like bilingual and special education. While the local market value for these stipends is still the best indicator of value, keeping these thresholds in mind may give a district the edge with attracting and retaining those that are most in demand.

Additionally, keep in mind that although it is a common practice to use experience as the principal criterion for determining base pay, nothing prohibits a district from paying some teachers more than others with the same experience, as long as the decision is defensible and not discriminatory.

Lastly, the report is wise to stress that finances are only one part of the retention piece. Teachers desire to work in mission-driven workplaces with collaborative peer relationships and support from their principals.

For a more expansive overview, check out the EdWeek website.


Keith McLemore is an HR & compensation consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Keith an email at keith.mclemore@tasb.org.


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Tagged: Benefits, Compensation, "Health insurance", Hiring