Skip to comments.Are Public-School Teachers Underpaid?
Posted on 11/01/2011 9:11:48 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
Education Secretary Arne Duncan thinks public-school teachers are desperately underpaid and has called for doubling teacher salaries. In a new paper co-authored with Jason Richwine of the Heritage Foundation, I look into whether teachers really are desperately underpaid, or underpaid at all. Jason and I find that the conventional wisdom is far off the truth.
At first glance, public-school teachers definitely look underpaid. According to Census data, teachers receive salaries around 20 percent lower than similarly educated private-sector workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says teachers benefits are about the same as benefits in the private sector. But both the salary and benefits figures are dubious.
Most teachers have Bachelors or Masters degrees in education, and most people with education degrees are teachers. Decades of research has shown that education is a less rigorous course of study than other majors: Teachers enter college with below-average SAT scores but receive much higher GPAs than other students. It may be that a degree in education simply does not reflect the same underlying skills and knowledge as a degree in, say, history or chemistry. When we compare salaries based on objective measures of cognitive ability such as SAT, GRE, or IQ scores the teacher salary penalty disappears.
And the real world bears this out: Contrary to teachers insistences that they could earn more outside of teaching, we show that the typical worker who moves from the private sector into teaching receives a salary increase, while the typical teacher who leaves for the private sector receives a pay cut.
If salaries are about even, benefits push teacher pay ahead. The BLS benefits data, which most pay studies rely on, has three shortcomings: It omits the value of retiree health coverage, which is uncommon for private workers but is worth about an extra 10 percent of pay for teachers; it understates the value of teachers defined-benefit pensions, which pay benefits several times higher than the typical private 401(k) plan; and it ignores teachers time off outside the normal school year, meaning that long summer vacations arent counted as a benefit. When we fix these problems, teacher benefits are worth about double the average private-sector level.
Finally, public-school teachers have much greater job security, with unemployment rates about half those of private-school teachers or other comparable private occupations. Job security protects against loss of income during unemployment and, even more importantly, protects a position in which benefits are much more generous than private-sector levels.
Overall, we estimate that public-school teachers receive total compensation roughly 50 percent higher than they would likely receive in the private sector. Does this mean that all school teachers are overpaid? No. But it does mean that across-the-board pay increases are hardly warranted. What is needed is pay flexibility, to reward the best teachers and dismiss the worst.
Andrew G. Biggs is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Some are; some aren’t.
I have less of a problem with what teachers are getting paid than with the fact that they are protected and get paid that regardless of whether they are any good at the job.
And some aren't worth keeping in the position - except they are anchored there because of tenure.
Considering the mindless crap that is taught in course of an education degree, no other segment would hire them.
Also factor in that they have summers off and only 180 workdays!
“What is needed is pay flexibility, to reward the best teachers and dismiss the worst.”
Says it all.
The Free Market dictates that your appropriate pay is merely what it would cost to replace you with like kind and quality. For teachers, which is not that hard of a job, that figure is far lower than what they get now.
FTR my wife and I home school our kids and have done some classes for other’s homeschool kids, all for free. In two hours a day, we produced kids that are all WAAAAAAY above grade level.
If anything, as a profession, they are over paid, especially when you factor in bennies and job security and the over all lousy work product (see Occupy Wall Street for the residue of our education system).
If they think public school teachers are underpaid then they ought to try working in Christian and other private schools that don’t get taxpayer largesse.
Some are; some arent.
There are a few exceptions, but ...
Do away with public schools, provide vouchers to parents, let parents spend them on competing schools and teachers in the free market along with their own money to the extent they want special teachers and programs, and the answer will be NO.
Until then, given the power of the unions and the dead weight and inefficiency in the civil service, the answer is and always will be YES.
The best teachers can put their curriculum and course lectures online and let anyone across the US access it.
Fire the teachers we don’t need- and that would be most of them.
The problem is the unions and legislators have made it impossible for a lot of well qualified teachers. Teaching history is something I might want to do when I retire, but as it stands, I’d have to go back to school for an education degree and certifications. This is ridiculous. General Patreaus is not even qualified to teach history at an american public school. Instead of these bureaucratic requirements, a simple test or proof of competency would encourage a lot more qualified teachers to the field that want to share their knowledge for a lot less money. Some do deserve the money, but there are way to many paper tigers teaching in the schools that simply got pushed through a teaching certificate programme. Because of their degrees, they are overpaid and have no real experience.
You mean 3 credit hour courses on decorating a Home Room Bulletin Board aren't as rigorous as Relativistic Physics? Classes on games you can play with a kick-ball aren't as difficult as Differential Equations, Organic Chemistry, or Statistics?
I will gladly compare my EASIEST required course to the most difficult Education degree required course. To say that they are less 'rigorous' is like saying the ocean is wet.
I think teachers should be contractors and be forced to offer the best deal for their services.
THAT was priceless!
When the public schools are privatized, teachers salaries will drop while quality of education will improve.
Out with political agenda and in with education..
Sorry teacher with tenure is worth say,10,000 a yr...
Good teacher without tenure is worth say,70,000 a year..
That averages out to 40,000 a year for both...which is what they are all worth to the unions—but their union dues for the Democrats are priceless.