These are interesting times to be a teacher in Maine. Education is the foundation of preparing the next generation of citizens for success in adulthood, so the teaching profession is highly valued. But this value is not monetized equal to other professions requiring the same level of education and commitment to the job. Teaching is often thought of as being personally fulfilling, but based more in care for students and education than financial reward.
Nationwide efforts such as #RedforEd are shifting this imbalance. Maine has an active #RedforEd movement with growing legislative support. Driven by educators, students and the public, these movements depend on robust educational leadership.
With its affordable, accelerated online M.S. in Education programs, the University of Southern Maine leads this charge in helping working teachers move into leadership positions.
Narrowing the Gap
Research conducted by the National Education Association (NEA) suggests a teacher pay gap of 79 cents on the dollar compared to professionals with the same levels of education and job experience; the gap often increases in economically disadvantaged areas with underfunded school districts. This can result in a brain drain, where people leave their hometowns to attend college and never return. In education, this can mean teacher shortages in areas with the most need, leading to subpar education.
This is not to say that the outlook for teachers is dire. As seen with #RedforEd, there is substantial public and legislative support in other areas for teachers. And numerous governmental funding programs and localized scholarships encourage teachers to teach in educationally disadvantaged areas.
Plus there is a constant need for teachers. Although the profession parallels the growth rate of all professions (according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data), it is not prone to dramatic change in employment levels. Prospects are good that improvements in compensation are coming. In fact, many #RedforEd movements have already succeeded in motivating the public and legislative bodies to pass legislation improving teacher pay and benefits, with some districts even offering retroactive back pay.
Low Average Starting Salaries
Maine reflects the national state of education, falling short in some areas and excelling in others. NEA statistics rank Maine low in average starting salary for teacher pay compared to other states (41st) with an average starting salary of $34,788. Yet the state ranks in the middle (26th) in average teacher salary ($53,815). The pay gap for teachers in Maine (77 cents on the dollar) is slightly worse than the national average, but the state ranks fairly high (17th) in per student spending ($13,842).
Maine schools are experiencing teacher shortages in various subjects, such as special education, English as a second language, and world languages. These shortages fall hardest on lower income rural school districts.
Maine ranks high in teacher-to-student ratio, providing teachers and students better direct engagement and support than most states. One area where Maine education has traditionally excelled is investing in technology. Maine was the first state to give seventh- and eighth-graders laptop computers. It also was the first state to provide all teachers of seventh to 12th grade with personal laptops along with the professional development necessary to use the computers effectively.
Maine’s #RedforEd movement and the Maine Education Association heavily advocate for improvements to the outlook for teaching and student education. These groups are lobbying successfully for better teacher pay and have been pushing to make teacher strikes legal. The state also is experimenting with innovative methods of grading and moving students through their educational development in individualized ways.
Overall, Maine has struggled when it comes to the teaching profession, but the state is making progress. Not only is there healthy support from government programs, but USM offers extensive scholarships from the School of Education and Human Development. Their highly accessible online graduate education programs also play a large part improving teacher access to higher education. All of this makes Maine an increasingly promising place to advance a career in educational leadership.
Learn more about the University of Southern Maine’s online Master of Science in Education programs.