New study warns against standardized pay for Alaska teachers

ANCHORAGE — A standardized salary schedule for Alaska’s teachers would be a benefit to schools, but would be too expensive to implement, according to a new study completed for the state Legislature.

In the University Alaska Anchorage’s Center for Alaska Education Policy Research study, researchers warned against the pay schedule that they developed, The Alaska Dispatch News reported. The study says the increased pay would help communities attract and retain highly qualified teachers. However, it would also cost too much and affect rural school districts disproportionately.

The pay schedule outlined by researchers would increase salary costs by about 15 percent across Alaska, with rural school districts having to pay their educators much more than urban districts.

According to the pay schedule, Anchorage should pay its teachers 10 percent more. But Pelican City School District in southeast Alaska would have to give its teachers a 105 percent pay increase.

“Given the state’s current and future fiscal challenges, the status quo is not going to suffice for our rural schools,” the study concluded.

Researchers said that while the salary schedule was a reflection of teachers’ preferences, they could not guarantee it would actually help rural schools attract and retain qualified teachers.

“Teachers decide where to work, and whether to stay or leave their school and district based on many factors in addition to salary,” the study said.

The pay schedule was based on several factors, including student demographics, teacher turnover rates, climate and labor force participation.

Researchers recommended that lawmakers conduct further studies on creating a merit-based pay system and not change the state’s teacher tenure system.

The study was part of the omnibus education bill passed in 2014 under former Gov. Sean Parnell.

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