HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
How Important is Salary?
Earlier this year, JESNA published findings from its Educators in Jewish Schools Study (EJSS). The goal of this study was to develop a better understanding of educators working in Jewish day and complementary schools and the factors that contribute to their job satisfaction and decisions to remain in the field. Dr. Michael Ben-Avie and I collected the EJSS data and, together with the staff of JESNA’s Berman Center, analyzed the results. The findings discussed here relate to the 819 respondents working in Jewish day schools. As the study reached only those working at the time in Jewish schools, “retention” was addressed through participants’ agreement/disagreement with items such as “I can imagine myself leaving the field of Jewish education in the next several years” (taking into account the age of the participant). Participants were asked to indicate the issues involved in their decision to leave or to stay. Here are the findings about the importance of salary and benefits as factors in teacher retention.
Salary range: Among day school educators who worked more than 30 hours per week, the most frequently reported range of salaries was $40,000–$49,999 (reported by 22% of respondents). One-quarter of the educators who reported working 30 or fewer hours per week most frequently cited salaries in the $20,000–$29,999 range. Thirty percent reported incomes of $50,000 to $70,000, and 17% were in the highest category of over $70,000. Eighty-nine percent of day school teachers said their salaries were important to their household incomes. Only 31% of day school respondents agreed that they could develop an economically rewarding professional career in Jewish education.
Benefits: Unlike professionals in similar full-time positions, full-time work in a Jewish day or complementary school does not guarantee that a teacher will receive benefits. For example, less than 69% of full-time Jewish educators, whether in day or complementary schools, who responded to the Educator Survey received health insurance or a retirement plan. Less than 45% received life or dental insurance and only 35% received some type of tuition assistance for their children who attended the same school.
Jewish day school educators most frequently reported that their employment benefits included a retirement plan (63%), paid time off for professional development (59%), health insurance (57%), life insurance (38%), some type of tuition assistance for their children who attended the same day school (35%), and dental insurance (33%).The benefits received by 5% or fewer day school educators were partial or full reimbursement for housing expenses and childcare.
Remaining in field: EJSS data showed that salary was a very important factor for day school respondents considering whether they will remain in the field. A minority (22%) of those earning less than $50,000 felt there were opportunities to develop an economically rewarding professional career at their current schools, whereas a somewhat larger percentage (36%) of those earning $50,000–$69,999 shared this view. Not surprisingly, the belief that one could develop an economically rewarding career in his/her current Jewish day school was most prevalent among those who earned $70,000 or more annually.
Importance of salary: Day school educators’ average rating of the importance of salary was “3.97” on the one to five scale. Day school educators ranked administrator recognition at 3.95, the school’s response to students not thriving at 3.98, and work/home life balance at 4.12. They rated the importance of health coverage at 3.3, insurance coverage at 3.2, and pension or retirement plan at 3.4.
Dr. Jeffrey S. Kress is chair of the Department of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary.
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