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Getting More Utahns Interested In Teaching Is All About The Money

Photo of an empty classroom

Last month, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert made a plea to former public school teachers to return to the profession but a new survey shows it will take more than a call to service to entice them back.

Currently, nearly half of Utah’s teachers leave the classroom after only five years on the job. In order to meet the demands of the current teacher shortage and the years ahead, that trend needs to change.

Speaking at a press conference from the state capitol, Herbert’s pitch was simple: If you’ve taught before, come back and the state will make the process smooth.

Those interested were told to visit a website,, and fill out a questionnaire. Nearly 2,000 people did.

When it came to the question of what would help them come back, the top answer by far was higher salaries.

Envision Utah, a small Salt Lake City-based think tank, put the survey together which showed 42.9 percent of former teachers said high salaries was their top priority.

Credit Envision Utah

Envision Utah released another survey this week that had nearly the same results, this time with 4,000 college students throughout the state. More than a third of the students who considered teaching decided against it because of salary.

When asked what it would take for them to reconsider, 22 percent said they would be interested in becoming a teacher for a starting salary at $50,000 or above. If that number was bumped up to $70,000 an additional 48 percent of students would jump on the bandwagon.

As it stands now, average starting teachers salaries along the Wasatch front are in the high $30,000 to low $40,000 range, and it gets lower in most rural districts.

Whether it’s enticing veteran teachers to return or college students to consider a career in education, it seems to be all about the money.


Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
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