To paraphrase Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a teacher is the most important component of a child's education. As a result of this acknowledgement, conventional wisdom seems to indicate that the way to attract and retain effective, high-quality teachers is through lucrative salaries.
But surprisingly, that may not be the case. This fact is noted by economist Jishnu Das in a recent paper for the left-leaning Brookings Institution entitled "Teachers' salaries: Too many bucks for the bang?"
Das looks at a variety of research from various countries on whether or not contract teachers – who are paid considerably lower wages than regular ones – impact student performance. As Das explains, these lower paid teachers experience the same effectiveness – and in some cases were more effective – than their higher paid, permanent counterparts.
Such results lead Das to pose the following question:
"Does all this mean that we should now pay teachers lower wages? Not necessarily. Policy has to take into account a myriad of other factors relative to what researchers study. …
But the main message is clear: All the available evidence shows that higher wages do not bring in better teachers or increase the performance of existing teachers. In fact, existing wages are high enough already."