Public vs. Charter Teacher Salaries

As a teacher, you have many choices for where you want to work these days. You can work for a traditional public school, an online public or charter school, a private school, run your own business as a tutor, or perhaps you offer homeschooling classes. These are just a few areas where teachers instruct students, but, if you’re like most teachers, you’re in the field of public education. (Just 3.4 percent work in charter schools, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Schools and Staffing Survey.)

If you’re in public education, you know that charter schools are one option for continuing to work in public education. Charter schools are public schools that don’t have to abide by many of the regulations that traditional public schools do. However, they do have to keep their promises in their charters about stability, achievement of students, and financial management. Another difference is that public schools are under the supervision of a school district and school board. Charters are sometimes run by for-profit companies.

While there are pros and cons to working for a charter, one area of difference you need to be aware of if you’re considering working for a charter is salary. In general, the salary you’d earn in a charter school is significantly lower than what you’d earn in a traditional public school. However, it is important to note that some charters do offer somewhat better pay than the public schools in their areas. Even so, charter school teachers typically have to work around 210 days per year, while public school teachers work about 180.

The 2013 U.S. Department of Education’s Schools and Staffing Survey found that the average salary of a traditional public school teacher was $53,400, but charter school teachers earned an average of $44,500. This could be because charter school teachers have worked for fewer years at the school where they currently work. There is no information available from this survey about seniority level, though. Overall, charter school teachers earn about 10 to 15 percent less than they would at a traditional public school, no matter what their experience level is. For example, in 2013, Michigan charter school teachers earned an average of $42,864, but traditional public school teachers earned $63,094.

Additionally, many charter schools have restrictions on unions for teachers. This can make it difficult to get raises for teachers. Many states allow teachers who work in certain public schools to get part of their loans paid off from college. However, some states don’t allow teachers working in a for-profit charter to be eligible for this type of program. This should figure into your consideration of any salary and benefits package at a charter school if student loans are a concern.

As far as benefits go, many charter schools don’t have the money to offer a strong benefits package. They may not participate in a retirement program for teachers or only offer health insurance for teachers and not their whole families. This is not the case with every school, however. Ask for a complete listing of benefits when you search for jobs in charter schools because they can be different in their offerings.