Society and Culture, Education

When gym teachers make more than math teachers

Image Credit: Jose Kevo (Flickr) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Image Credit: Jose Kevo (Flickr) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In an eye-opening research brief published by the Show-Me Institute, policy analyst James Shuls sheds light on the sad and incongruous picture of teacher compensation in the state of Missouri. He shows that 99.8% of public school teachers in the state are employed by districts that compensate teachers through “step and lane” pay scales, in which salaries are based on years of experience and credentials, not any measure of teacher performance. Because of the structure of these scales, the overwhelming majority of teachers are rewarded for persistence, not labor market value.

As such, gym teachers, who tend to stay in schools longer than math, science, or practically any other teacher type, on average, get paid the most.

This is crazy.

The labor market value of a math teacher, that is, what they could make if they decided to do something else, is significantly higher than that of a gym teacher, who has fewer options outside of a school. Pay should reflect this. If we want to attract our best and brightest into the teaching profession, we need to realize that other folks might be competing for their talents and making them better offers.

And this is the bare minimum. Once we realize that different teachers have different labor market values, we can have a conversation about linking teacher pay to teacher performance. We live in a world of limited resources, and must endeavor to use them in the most efficient ways possible. Rewarding teachers for simply not getting fired is not an efficient use of school funds.

But those are just my two cents; feel free to check it out for yourselves.

5 thoughts on “When gym teachers make more than math teachers

  1. The gym teacher probably has more opportunities and time to carry teacher-union signs and banners when they go on strike–so of course he gets paid more.

  2. re: the “benefit” -

    so true! and Parents and students do NOT want RIGOROUS academics because it “hurts” their grades.

    Instead, they want mile-wide, inch-deep courses that look good on a college application.

    blaming teachers here is comical. Teachers pretty much
    teach what they are told to teach and the reason their performance is not evaluated in a lot of cases is that the school system itself would have to fix their curriculums.

    How do you “evaluate” a teacher of a non-core academic subject like GYM or many of the “electives” offered at many schools?

    If you separated out the pure core-academic subjects and teachers in a given school – what percent of the total dollars would they represent?

    this is why virtually all European and Asian countries cost per student is much less and at the same time they outrank us in math, science and reading.

    they concentrate their money and their priorities on core academic competencies and if parents/kids want more – they go pay for it in the private sector.


    Teachers don’t give a damn about the kids and education–they care only about their union and union control.

    Competition always works for consumers…monopolies are always hostile for consumers. The consumers of education in the USA are sick and tired of coming in 28th or 77th in global rankings. We have paid a huge price for the “dumbing-down” of America.

    Vouchers, tax credits and COMPETITION are our only way out–the teachers and their union are our enemies.

  4. Public schools are run for the benefit of students. If some of you negative people think you know everything why don’t you go and volunteer your time in the schools? You cannot put a pricetag on the teaching profession; it is probalby one of the only noblest professions left besides military, fire and polic protection and and other first responders.

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