News & Observer editors and Superintendent of Public Instruction have a hypothesis – “low pay” may produce a teacher shortage.  It may also produce nuclear war, as those of who participated in intercollegiate policy debate know all too well.

Those who study this stuff know that the issue is not cut-and-dry.  For example, using data from North Carolina, C. Kirabo Jackson found that teachers are likely to stay at their schools when “match quality” is high.  (Think of it as eHarmony’s 29 Dimensions® of Compatibility for teachers.)  His study suggests that these decreases in turnover do not occur as a result of compensation but has to do more with psychological factors such as satisfaction and validation.

Does compensation have a role in turnover?  Absolutely.  But that role is not evenly distributed geographically or across disciplines.  For teachers in rural areas, even a job with a relatively stagnant salary is preferable to alternatives.  Similarly, teachers with a degree in history or elementary education may have limited opportunities outside of the classroom.  Math, science, and special education teachers have access to higher paying opportunities in the nonprofit, government, and private sectors.  That is one reason why the John Locke Foundation continues to champion incentive pay plans.

On a related note, I would like Superintendent Atkinson to provide details of this supposed “national movement to disparage teachers.”  It’s funny.  Those who contend that the Common Core State Standards are a national movement to manipulate public education are dismissed as loonies.  But those who claim that there is a national movement to disparage teachers are lauded as perspicacious.