Public Schools

What Is a Public School?

Public schools are universal: They are available to everyone. Public elementary schoolsmiddle schools and high schools are funded and controlled by three levels of government: The United States Department of Education on the federal level, state-level departments of education and by the school district at the local level. As of the 2008-09 school year, there were about 13,800 public school districts across all 50 states. Each school district sets the curricula, funding and employment for schools within their boundaries, with direction from the state. Educational standards and standardized testing decisions are also made by the state. With over 97,000 public schools in the United States, almost 50 million students are enrolled in public primary (elementary) or secondary (high) schoolsTeaching jobs are never scarce in the public school system; the need for talented, dedicated teachers is always there. Throughout the country, the need for teachers varies by region, grade level and subject, but no matter where you are looking, the jobs are there. In fact, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), 2010-2011, employment of teachers is expected to grow by 13 percent between 2008 and 2018. The National Center for Education Statistics projects that public schools will employ about 3.3 million teachers during Fall of 2011. Teaching in public schools also offers a measure of job security not necessarily found in other occupations. Many states have tenure laws that allow teachers who preform well to obtain tenure after a set amount of years worked. Tenure prevents public school teachers from being fired without just cause and due process, and while it does not guarantee a job, it does provide some job security.

Teaching in a Public School

The number of student enrollments in public schools is also on the rise, and the demand for teachers is directly impacted by this. Enrollment varies by region, with states in the South and West having the largest increases, while enrollments in the Midwest remain steady, and enrollment in the Northeast declines. School districts in poor, densely populated areas and in sparsely populated rural areas are in greater need of teachers. There are also school districts looking to hire teachers who are qualified in particular subject areas, like math, science, bilingual education and foreign languages. As the number of non-English-speaking students and students of ethnic minorities continue to grow, efforts to recruit bilingual and minority teachers will increase as well.

Public School Teacher Salary

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the average salaries of public school teachers ranged from $30,970 to $80,970 in May 2008, with the median being between $47,100 and $51,180. The majority of public school teachers belong to teaching unions, primarily the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, that bargain for salaries, hours and other conditions of employment. There are however, other ways that teachers can increase the amount of money they make. Some schools will pay teachers extra for facilitating extracurricular activities and sports, while others receive additional compensation for advanced degrees and certification.

How to Be a Public School Teacher

Becoming a public school teacher generally requires completing your Bachelor’s degree in a teacher education program and obtaining a license. Many states offer alternative certification for those who do did not pursue a degree in teaching. There are also voluntary, nationally recognized certifications that allow teachers to demonstrate advanced expertise. Many schools provide special benefits to teachers who earn national certification such as higher salaries and reimbursement for education fees. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is one organization that offers national, professional teaching certification in such areas as Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL), mathematics, English and many others.