Report: U.S. spent (wasted?) $14.8 billion paying teachers for master’s degrees

School districts spent nearly $15 billion in the 2007-08 school year to pay teachers extra for earning master’s degrees, up 72 percent from four years prior, concludes a report released this week by a left-leaning think tank.

The Center for American Progress suggests money for the so-called “master’s bump” was not well spent because research shows there is little difference in effectiveness between teachers who have master’s degrees and those who don’t.

“This increase, which outstripped inflation many times over during the same time period, is music to the ears of those institutions of higher education that cater to teachers and their academic pursuits,” the report says. “But for the nation’s primary and secondary schools, this increase strikes a discordant note and underscores the need to uncouple teacher compensation from the earning of advanced degrees.”

Illinois paid out the most for the average bump, coming in at $11,910. The District of Columbia was second ($11,280), followed by Minnesota ($10,090), Ohio ($8,760) and North Dakota ($8,550). Utah paid the least, at $2,010.

Florida was among the lowest per bump, at $2,850. But in 2007-08, the report shows, that extra pay added up to $197 million.

That total is likely to fall in coming years as a result of Senate Bill 736, which was signed into law last year by Gov. Rick Scott. Among other changes, it mandates that extra compensation cease for teachers whose advanced degrees are not in their certification area.

The report describes the cost for the master’s bump as a “lost opportunity” because, in its view, the money could be better spent on teachers who mentor other teachers, work in high-poverty schools, teach hard-to-fill subject areas like math and science or demonstrate “extraordinary instructional impact.”