Students planning to go into the teaching profession are no strangers to the low salary that teachers get paid. The Utah State Auditor released a report on Nov. 14 that compared first year salaries between professions to confirm that low salaries have contributed to a teacher shortage in Utah.
Students who want to go into teaching but don’t know what they want to teach may be persuaded toward math or science. These subject areas have been hit the hardest by the teacher shortage in Utah because college graduates can make so much more money doing anything else, but Utah is working to raise the salaries of these teachers.
One possible solution to Utah’s shortage of math and science teachers may be to raise their salaries over other teachers. Education majors at WSU have split opinions on this incentive.
Emily Hale, an elementary teaching major at WSU, comes from a long line of teachers.
“I knew going into it that I wouldn’t be making a lot,” Hale said. “I mostly just wanted to go into teaching because I love kids and wanted to teach and be in the classroom.”
Kyle Stanger, a business education major at WSU, changed his major to education because he also wanted to do what he loved. “I kind of just decided to go with something that I wanted to do. Whether it’s less salary or not, my happiness means more, and I want to help kids,” Stanger said.
Despite the joy that many teachers experience in the work itself, making enough money to live off of is important, too. The report released by the Utah State Auditor shows that when math majors are presented with a choice, they pursue higher-earning careers.
“This information indicates that a 2014 graduate with a degree in mathematics and statistics could anticipate being paid $56,193,” the Utah State Audit read. “Whereas a graduate with an education major could expect an average first‐year salary of approximately $36,577.”
The difference in pay is luring away qualified math teachers. In an effort to attract more qualified teachers to these fields of study, a bill to raise salaries of Utah teachers in these fields was sent to the Utah State Senate in March, after being approved by the Utah State House. Because of the subject-dependent aspect of the bill, there is a disagreement on whether raising the salaries would be fair to teachers of other subjects.
However, Hale explained that people would not be able to do much without being able to read, a skill taught in English classes. “They’re different subjects, but they’re both necessary,” she said, referring to math and English.
“That’s the way that all schools are going with STEM,” Stanger said. “I think it is fair to an extent, but you can’t devalue the other teachers.” Teachers of any subject manage full classrooms, unruly students and long hours. This may be a way for the state to attract more teachers, but it favors math and science over others.
Ezekiel Lee contributed to this article.