Skip to comments.Are American teachers really underpaid?
Posted on 09/15/2012 5:15:20 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
The Chicago teachers' strike has again focused Americans on the issue of public school teacher pay and benefits levels, especially in the midst of our continuing national economic struggles. A number of commentators, including the hometown Chicago Tribune's editorial board, have noted that teachers are doing quite well these days relative to others in the Windy City. So it was inevitable that a contrary narrative, namely that teachers are underpaid, would emerge. Typical is a posting on the NY Times Economix blog which cites a study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development which finds a lag between teacher wages and those of other college grads. The blog posting then cleverly asks, Does It Pay to Become a Teacher? In doing so the post not only accepts the superficial OECD data on salaries (when there are far better studies here in the U.S. of what teachers actually earn), but it also assumes that teachers could have earned more money doing something else. That's not what the facts suggest.
Perhaps this shouldn't be necessary to point out to a blog called "Economix" but it is possible to track the earnings of teachers who leave the profession and do something else. One academic paper tracked Georgia teachers who left the profession and moved into the private sector and found they earned, on average, about what they did as teachers. A similar study of teachers who leave the field in Missouri found they earn less in the private sector, except for those with high standardized (ACT) test scores.
Andrew Biggs and Jason Richwine take a broader sample from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, a study following 50,000 households, which includes information on job changes. It found that teachers who shift to non-teaching jobs earn 3.1 percent less, while other workers who shift from non-teaching jobs to other non-teaching jobs earned 0.5 percent more.
Some might argue that teachers don't do well when they switch careers because they don't have the right degree to maximize earnings in the private sector. If they had just studied something else they would succeed in the private sector, the argument goes. But this assumes that all degrees are equally challenging and equally open to everyone. The evidence suggests otherwise. On SAT scores, education majors score on average in the 38 percentile among those going to college. On the GRE education graduates scored well below the mean. Another study of ACT scores found something similar. These studies suggest there is no pot of gold in general for teachers in other professions because merely comparing years of education among graduates in different fields is a misleading measure of graduates' abilities:
As both a direct measure of acquired knowledge and an indirect measure of innate ability, teacher education does not compare well to education in other fields. The result is that years of education could be a highly misleading measure of teacher skill, write Biggs and Richwine.
Indeed, all things considered public school teachers do quite well, despite the misleading OECD figures. Although OECD's broad studies can be useful in comparing countries to each other, once the OECD starts trying to drill down into the data it inevitably produces results that are simplistic. That's the case here.
For one thing, the OECD just measures salaries, not benefits. Nor does the OECD adjust for the shorter work year of teachers. One MI study that made these adjustments found that:
"The average public school teacher was paid 36% more per hour than the average non-sales white-collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty and technical worker...and compared with public school teachers, editors and reporters earn 24% less; architects, 11% less; psychologists, 9% less; chemists, 5% less; mechanical engineers, 6% less; and economists, 1% less."
The report noted that not only do teachers work on average 4 hours a week less than other white collar workers, but of course their salaries are typically based on a 185-195 day work year.
Andrew Biggs and Jason Richwine take this analysis further by looking at a detailed valuation of benefits, including some benefits, like pensions, whose cost and value are not accurately tracked by standard government data. They include other benefits virtually unprecedented in the private sector, like retiree health care insurance. The pair estimate that for every dollar of salaries public school teachers earn, they earn almost another dollar in benefits. By contrast, private sector benefits cost employers about 43 cents for every dollar of salary.
I think voters understand much of this even without drilling down into the numbers, which is why we've seen a number of reform governors and mayors of both parties elected in recent years promising education reform and control of school budgets.
If we had a free market for instructional services, we wouldn’t need to raise the issue.
No, they are, on average, overpaid for their abilities and effort.
Good teachers have always been underpaid, in terms of monetary reward, because of the great service they perform in molding young minds into highly productive adults. Inferior teachers, on the other hand, are vastly OVERPAID, in terms of the damage they do in destroying or inhibiting potential in these same young skulls full of mush.
The problem lies in that the good teachers cannot be identified and differentiated from the bad ones until after several years of experience and field testing. The evil of the Chicago system is that the bad ones cannot be weeded out and removed from the system. Because of the protective nature of the union membership, these bad teachers are shifted out of the class rooms, but instead of being fired outright and thus no longer a burden on the system, they are “kicked upstairs” into some meaningless position in “administration” where they sap the resources of the established cash flow funding, stealing it from what may be otherwise used to improve the delivery of educational services to the real consumers of those resources, the children.
Until this inherent evil is addressed and removed from the system, the cancer will continue to grow and fester, making the whole effort to educate the young an exercise in futility. While the time of the young is being filled, no effective, productive education is going on. That is not to say the young are not learning SOMETHING, it is just not socially or economically anything that is productive.
And all the while, the good teachers are steadily being driven out of the system. This is not a new problem at all in urban settings, as inferior teachers have plagued the system from the beginning. A sort of Gresham’s law concerning education is at work here, the inferior teachers driving out the excellent and merely good over time.
And thus, teachers end up overpaid over time.
Teacher don’t teach anymore. Look at the statistics in math science and economics. They don’t teach students about respect, social abilities, or manners, look at the crime rate. They don’t teach any way for a young person to get by in the world, look at the employability of the yuuts.. They now indoctrinate the students to accept socialism, “green”, and Marxism. Yes, they are WELL overpaid.
1) Schools are obsolete - the Internet can provide all the education a child or adult needs at a fraction of the cost and babysitting is cheaper than schooling.
2) They are not doing the job that they were designed to do; educating the youth to function in our capitalistic Republic by understanding how our government functions.
It is time to abolish public education.
(Disclaimer - I teach math and science in the private market)
(Disclaimer: I’m in my 18th year of homeschooling.)
A combination of technological and social change has rendered the industrial schooling model not just obsolete but positively harmful. If we get the government out of the way, free choice will compensate the best live teachers or education-technology entrepreneurs extremely well, while forcing millions of today’s “teachers” to sell their time for what it’s worth.
It is a myth that public school teachers are underpaid. I’m a retired teacher / administrator in Texas, but I did a stint in the private sector. Teachers work 1660 hours a year in Texas vs 2020 for private sector folks. One or more of those hours every day is a “conference” period with no kids plus they get a duty-free lunch. This isn’t a rant against teachers. A few are incredible at what they do. A few are idiots. Most are good, caring people who do the best job they know how to do just like everybody else in life. It’s just that the numbers don’t support the “under paid teacher argument”.
Exactly. My wife just retired as a teacher here in central Texas, and she would agree with your assessment. Also, the amount of paid ovehead in school district admin positions is out of control. Lots of wasted taxpayer money layered in those little empires.
I wanted to not comment but I will anyway. Disclaimer, my Mom is a retired teacher and she was a great teacher.
1. Teaching is less teaching and more of a compliance officer / minion now. The feds and government that allowed unions also brought less teaching and more regulations.
2. Teaching the test has destroyed teaching students to think. No child left behind is another Bush mistake.
3. I see youngsters who have never been taught to think all the time now in the private sector. All they want is the “answer” and there usually isn’t one.
4. Administration is an obscene cost now. How did we ever get by without a nutritionist or a library counselor in our little independent school districts. These people, and many more like them, are paid at a much higher rate than the teachers.
5. Oklahoma and Arkansas allow “double dippers” for those who have the connections to game the systems. Work in Oklahoma until retirement then cross over to Arkansas and work until you qualify on an age and years basis for enough points to retire there. I believe it takes as little as 5 years.
6. Schools have gone from adequate, attractive and functional to social statements of architecture and opulence. The local school board are dupes of people who appeal to their own vanity. Have a look at this “Education Support Center” also known as the Berry Center. Named after a superintendent of schools there who retired after just 35 years of “work for the community”.
Nobody or not enough people ask what it costs and who is going to pay for it.
and one more:
The quotes are just foolish. Allen was nothing more than a wide spot on US 75 20 years ago. Dallas has absorbed it but it is still run by some of the same people from 20 years ago.
7. Running for school board is a local popularity contest to fulfill the egotistical needs of little people who can’t go anywhere else or do anything else. The pool to draw on is small and small minded all too often.
8. Coaches are local heroes and usually legends in their own minds. Dangerous people who are in control of young, impressionable, captive, dependent minds and who often set themselves up as demi-gods. They are overpaid and over rated. They don’t make even reasonable administrators which is often where they end up.
Well, I just wasted valuable time on this.