We keep hearing that money (the lack thereof) dissuades people from becoming teachers because of low-teacher pay. It’s an argument that has some merit in some places. Yet when a CA district proposes paying teachers more to stay in challenging schools the teachers’ union protests that people don’t do the job for money? What’s more, a teachers’ union spokesperson in LA says that offering teachers more money for performance or challenging assignments is akin to treating them like “whores”.

This is an absurd line of argument that succeeds only in the insular world of education politics. Does money matter or not? If it matters for overall pay, it matters for differentials, too. And if it doesn’t matter in terms of behavior because intrinsic motivation is really determinant, then what’s the policy argument for not just indexing teacher pay to inflation? Or paying teachers much at all for that matter? Those are absurd propositions as well because of course money is a factor in the professional decisions teachers make.

Is pretty much every profession outside of teaching populated by whores? Money isn’t the only thing that drives people in other professions (nor is it the only issue for teachers issues like working conditions, leadership, and the rest also matter) but other professions are much more willing to make financial incentives one part of the picture while also addressing other issues and it’s long overdue to recognize that in education. Incidentally, smart teachers’ union leaders also recognize that regimented pay-schemes based primarily on longevity and course-taking are counter-productive to the interest of their members, too.

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