SALT LAKE CITY—An analysis by the Utah State Auditor’s office put numbers to the perception that starting salaries for teachers are lower than they are for graduates in other professions.
The study “points towards an issue that should not be ignored,” reads the report, published by the office of John Dougall, state auditor.
“Given the significant difference between salary opportunities, the shortage of highly-qualified mathematics teachers may be driven in part by this disparity,” it reads.
College graduates with bachelor’s degrees in math would, on average, be able to find jobs with starting salaries around $56,195, according to estimates compiled by the auditor’s office.
Engineering graduates are estimated to start at $59,616, and computer science graduates at $64,071.
Those numbers are presented in contrast with the first-year salary of a teacher, estimated at $36,577.
That makes the teacher’s salary just 65 percent of the salary for someone with a math degree working in another field, 61 percent of the salary an engineering graduate would likely receive, and 57 percent of a computer science graduate’s starting salary.
Degrees in family and consumer sciences are estimated to match beginning salaries for teachers.
Those with degrees in history are estimated to make $39,059; those in communication and journalism, $42,776; in physical sciences, $41,105 and social sciences, $58,974.
The only salary that came in lower than a teacher’s was for physical education majors, who were estimated to start at $35,696.
“Reports indicate that many schools in Utah’s public education system struggle to find sufficient highly-qualified teachers to fill their staffing needs,” reads the report, “particularly in the fields of mathematics, science, or special education.”
Tamara Lowe, a member of the Davis School District Board of Education who has worked with teachers in training, said she feels badly that teaching has become an undesirable occupation because of the salary involved.
“After four-years of hard work and large student loans, a $35,000 to $36,000 a year salary is not a pleasing possibility,” she said.
It is up to the state legislature to provide more funds for education, she said.
“The only thing we can do is beg, and we do that,” she said.
The flat income tax passed by Gov. Jon Huntsman hurt education funding, she said. While she feels Gov. Herbert supports more money for education, legislators “just look at you and laugh” if you suggest a tax increase, though she said many people support it knowing it would benefit Utah students.
The auditor’s study states that many studies “indicate the importance of having a highly-qualified teacher in the classroom. ”
The report encourages “policymakers and education professionals” to look at how the difference in salaries might impact the supply of teachers.
It concludes with this recommendation:
“While salary is just one of several factors in choosing career opportunities, it is an important factor for many graduates and students entering college. The public education system should reconsider its compensation practices, particularly in regards to this information and the competing opportunities graduates have.”