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Economists Want to Stop Teachers' Degree Bonuses

Economists Want to Stop Teachers' Degree Bonuses

Think getting a masters will give your salary a boost? The future is uncertain.


Debating a change could be more controversial and unpopular than cutting chocolate milk from the school cafeteria menu.

But education economists believe this idea can’t be ignored forever, because teacher pay is the biggest part of education budgets and the salary schedule drives that spending.

Erick Hanushek, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, said this kind of contract change would be difficult but not impossible, despite teachers unions being among the most influential lobbies in many state capitols.

School districts won’t save much money because they won’t be able to cut teacher pay overall, but they could start redirecting cash to the most effective teachers, as measured in ways other than what degrees they have earned, he said.

Teachers may need to accept a two-tiered system at first to grandfather in those getting the bonuses. The biggest losers will be university education schools, because they make a lot of money on master’s degrees, Hanushek said.

“There’s a relationship between education schools and teachers that is not particularly healthy,” he said.

Hanushek said the University of Washington estimate of the $8.6 billion annual cost of master’s degree money is low.

“It’s what you would call free money, but not from a political standpoint,” he said.

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