The Truth About Teacher Pay


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Compensation to public school teachers overcharges the American public by more than $120 billion a year, according to a joint study by two of the country’s largest public policy research institutes.

One of the two big teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), defensively says the implication that teachers are overpaid “defies common sense.” AFT even derisively asks, “If teachers are so overpaid then why aren’t more ‘1 percenters’ banging down the doors to enter the teaching profession?”

The large and complex study of compensation of public school teachers said, “No one doubts the significance of high-quality teachers in the school system and to the economy in general, but even the most important public workers should be paid at a level commensurate with their skills—no more, no less.”

The study was conducted by Jason Richwine, PhD, senior policy analyst in the Center for Data Analysis at the Heritage Foundation, and Andrew G. Biggs, PhD, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Their research was scholarly and meticulous, even if jarring to the teachers unions.

The study said, “Overall, public school teacher compensation exceeds private levels by approximately 52 percent.” During the recent recession and state and local budget crunch, the study pointed out, some teachers were laid off. It was not the ugly, mass firing Obama has groused about, however.

“Employment in education by local government declined by 2.9 percent between September 2008 and July 2011, according to BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] data. Nevertheless, these job losses occurred [when] overall private-sector employment declined 4.4 percent,” the study said.

The Senate blocked part of Obama’s jobs plans that would have needlessly spent $30 billion to keep and hire teachers in October. Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blasted Republicans, who voted down the bill.

“Republicans unanimously blocked a bill that would have kept 400,000 teachers in the classroom,” Reid whined in one of the Democrats’ frequent false spins.

Do teachers get paid fairly? Standard analyses compare teachers’ salaries to the pay of similarly educated and experienced private-sector workers, plus contributions toward fringe benefits. “These simple comparisons would indicate that public school teachers are under compensated,” the study authors say. But “teacher skills lag behind those of other workers with similar ‘paper’ qualifications.”

The wage gap disappears when measured by “cognitive ability rather than years of education.” Public school teachers get more pay than private school teachers. People who switch from “non-teaching jobs to teaching jobs” receive a wage increase of about 9 percent. On the other hand, teachers who change to non-teaching jobs, “see their wages decrease by roughly 3 percent–the opposite of what one would expect if teachers were indeed underpaid.”

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  • luluidiot

    Don't forget — teachers also have anywhere between 60-90% of their health insurance paid for, they can 'save' their sick time (usually 15 days/year–AND THEY ONLY WORK 180 DAYS/YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Figure out what they earn per hour, and you sure are better off being a teacher than almost any other professional! And, not to be nasty, it's usually easier to get into state colleges that have large teacher training programs than it is to get into other 'better' colleges.

    • aspacia

      True! Just remember, students often have attacked teachers, and legally cannot defend themselves because students are minors, and students are often belligerent, argue, and insult teachers who are told to follow the Six Step Progressive Discipline Policy rather than kick the snot out of class.

      Yes, I am talking to all enabling parents who believe their little prince or princess can do no wrong.

    • http://www.alesforum.net Cotto

      If you think teaching is the best job become one and stop complaining.

  • oldtimer

    I have teachers in my family and they live very well. Vacations in RV all summer. And as retirees, at a young age, continue to live well because of their good pensions. My taxes went up every year because they went on strike. Since money made them better teachers, yet grades went down and my benefits went down also. I remember when I was in school, many years ago, I guess this is when I changed my opinion of teachers, being told to read chapter so in so while my teacher read a book, and paid bills and other personal chores because of tenure. Children learn more from example, and the most teachers don't set a good one. And also, what good is education if you are dead. Hospital workers, police, etc. are all needed, why do teachers deserve better than anyone else. There was a Teacher of the Year interviewed for a news article years ago. She said she wanted to help people and was between nursing and teaching. She chose teaching for the benefits. Holidays off, summers off, while nursing was 24/7, 365. Nice attitude.

    • PhillipGaley

      All the while, 'the elephant in the living room' of teacher's pay is, in coming to the administrative level, you find the admins and their support staff to be receiving not twice what the teachers get but, headed that direction, . . .

      • aspacia

        They already start at nearly twice of what I am paid.

        Here is our teacher pay scale: http://www.ccsd.net/jobs/lps/?p=salary

        Here is admistrators' pay: http://www.ccsd.net/jobs/aps/?p=salary

        Please remember, I do not mind the pay freeze, or contributing to my family's health care.

        "LAS VEGAS — To balance a $145 million shortfall, officials at the Clark County School District call on their employees to share the sacrifice — give a little in hard times to save programs and jobs.

        But instead of across the board cuts, special perks were given to the district's highest paid staff. Nearly half of administrators with CCSD earned more than $90,000 last year. The highly-paid pool recently prompted lawmakers to call for a review, and possible reduction, of administrator perks. Most notably, recent contract extensions for the superintendent's closest advisors."

    • http://www.alesforum.net Cotto

      I have been teaching for 22 years. I am SICK and TIRED of all the whining done by non-teachers. If you think we have it so good become a teacher yourself!! Stop crying over what I make. We have very good teachers I am one of them I work hard. We help mold and shape young minds. I have put in over 20 years, why shouldn’t I get benefits?? I am a productive member of society I contribute to state and city taxes, property taxes, my pension and my health care. Yes we only work 10 months but only get paid for 10 months. I have to find a summer job! The teaching profession has been degraded by law makers who have made bad state legislative decisions and blame teacher salaries for it. Teachers are highly respected in other countries. Countries that outsmart our kids. The poor test scores do not soley rest with teacher performance. How about student and parent responsibility?? What goes on in the home?? HELLO!!!! STOP WHINING!! And STOP BLAMING TEACHERS!!!!!

  • FriendofGaryCooper

    So Kim Anderson of the NEA questions the reliability of the Heritage-AEI study.
    ("Does the AEI honestly purport that paying teachers even less will help raise the quality of teaching in American schools?) The point of the article is that teacher's effectiveness is NOT increased by increasing teacher's pay; and their current salary levels are NOT justified by their student's performance. At the end of the day, what determines student performance is whether or not the school–the teachers and administrators–effectively discipline student behavior. In many school districts, teacher's salaries at the worst schools are often higher than at better schools.(in public school systems) And it doesn't make much difference, if any. Those schools continue to be at the bottom, academically.
    Tait Trussel is right on here.

    • aspacia

      Yes! The main reason I moved from CA to NV, was the discipline issue. Now, NV is following the CA model.

      Additionally, parents must support teachers instead of being enablers.

  • Brujo Blanco

    There are many problems with teachers and one problems that many systems promote teachers who are poor performers. Schools also need to get back to basic education. Too many students are pushed through the system and are graduated as functional illiterates.

    • aspacia

      Brujo, what determines good teachers? 40% of my students fail due to laziness, and refusal to make-up assignments when they miss school They do not want to come in after school or during lunch for the work. I have created a drawer with instructions and the assignments, but often students cannot complete their assignments unless they come in during lunch or after school for help.

      Brujo, remember, this is my lunch.

  • crypticguise

    With exceptions teachers are not particularly bright. Those who choose to get a degree in Education score on the lowest percentile of High School SAT tests of those entering college. Once they graduate from College with a Certification (Degree) to teach they don't really KNOW much more than a High School graduate.

    Educators live in an alternative universe. They actually believe that they are a "select" group. They are, except this select group isn't particularly wekk educated nor do they have the "tool set" of others with a comparable education in the private sector.

    • Supreme_Galooty

      It takes a degree in "Education" to be able to use a noun to modify a noun. (e.g. Sex Studies) Meanwhile we ordinary folk must use adjectives or prepositional phrases: "Sexy Studies, or Studies of Sexuality." In the same vein, today's teachers get away with using the word "gender" to mean "sex." (Nouns have gender. Humans have sex.) They do this because the word "sex" is deemed to be – wait for it – sexist!.

      It is said that 87% of all statistics are made up. I'd be willing to bet that 87% of all American school teachers came from the bottom third, academically, of all college graduates – unless, of course, they graduated from a "Teacher College."

      • johnnywoods

        Hey Galooty, You may be right about 87% of all stats being "made up". As the saying goes," Figures don`t lie but liars do figure".

      • aspacia

        Cum Laude, a 3.56, just short of 3.62 for Magna Cum Laude.

        Galooty: you are off on gender and sex. Many English word cross from noun, to verb, adjective, etc.:
        Definition of GENDER
        1
        a : a subclass within a grammatical class (as noun, pronoun, adjective, or verb) of a language that is partly arbitrary but also partly based on distinguishable characteristics (as shape, social rank, manner of existence, or sex) and that determines agreement with and selection of other words or grammatical forms b : membership of a word or a grammatical form in such a subclass c : an inflectional form showing membership in such a subclass
        2
        a : sex <the feminine gender> b : the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex

        1sex
        noun \ˈseks\
        Definition of SEX
        1
        : either of the two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as female or male especially on the basis of their reproductive organs and structures
        2
        : the sum of the structural, functional, and behavioral characteristics of organisms that are involved in reproduction marked by the union of gametes and that distinguish males and females
        3
        a : sexually motivated phenomena or behavior

        • Supreme_Galooty

          I am NOT "off."

          While it is true that a language changes to meet the new generations, it is not necessary for DICTIONARIES to participate in the obvious degeneration of language for either convenience or political agenda. My point stands. Yours languishes in tedium and plebeian obfuscation.

          Today's dictionaries are not worthy. Neither is your argument.

          • aspacia

            So language should never change to meet societal change. We should all be still using words like anon
            abaft toward or at the stern of a ship; further aft
            afore before
            agone ago
            alack expression of sorrow or regret
            alee on or toward the lee
            alow below
            amain to a high degree; exceedingly; at full speed
            an if
            anent about; concerning
            anon at once; immediately
            aright right; correctly
            aroint begone
            athwart across; in opposition to; sideways; transversely
            aught anything at all; something
            avaunt away; hence
            aye yes
            beforetime formerly
            belike most likely; probably

            Face it, language, and society is dynamic, if not, both will perish as did Latin and the Roman Empire.

          • Supreme_Galooty

            It appears you did not read my comment: "While it is true…" My point remains regarding the regrettable wont of certain dictionaries to appease the politically correct amongst us by abandoning established principles and usage in order to pervert the meaning of words. Simply being printed in a dictionary does not make an incorrect definition suddenly correct. It does, however, carry the force of authority, even though wrong, and contributes to the degradation of the language, and consequently to the degradation of thought. The world is full of people who think persons have gender, and their ability to think clearly is reduced because of it.

            Clearly language must be dynamic, but it need not be debased in the process.

          • aspacia

            Leave it alone Galoot, before you dig a deeper hole.

    • aspacia

      True. Depending on the state, teachers only need a 60-70% Praxis score to teach. Bloggers, I scored 92%. However, teachers need 80-90% Praxis score in pedagogy (a load of bunk) to pass.

      The emphasis is on the goofy pedagogy theories floating around in academia, and some are created by the pedagogy guru Bill Ayres.

      The teachers who are given the most grief by administrators are those with solid academic credentials, mine are history and English, in their disciplines, especially in the math and science departments.

    • Taxpayer1234

      Yet there are teachers like me, with low SAT scores….and Mensa-level IQ, undergrad and graduate cum laude diplomas. I've also had three non-teaching careers, including owning a business. Not only can I teach students how to write well, but I can evaluate a balance sheet, do blueprint take-offs, and make a computer sit up and bark. Smart, risk-taking, adaptable–not exactly your definition of a "not particularly bright" educator.

      And today I'm back in the college classroom, sharing my real-world experiences with my students. I'm not the exception, either. I have MANY colleagues who have just as varied non-teaching experiences.

    • http://www.alesforum.net Cotto

      This is too funny…. So you are saying I know only slightly more than a high school student..HA HA…. Or am I an exception? You on the other hand, don’t know how to spell. Perhaps a high school student can teach you.

  • DMW

    I sometimes wonder if we not ought to have a GO/NO-GO system in Elementary Education, somewhat like the Army (you either do it or you don't, you either grasp it academically or you don't in progressive bit size tasks and learning objectives. Then in Middle/Junior High, a transition is made to grades for some subjects and GO/NO-GO in others (does a student really need a grade for PE for example). High School would become more grade oriented, as a means of discrimination — albeit one tool among many — for perhaps college entry evaluation in core subjects only. Again, is a grade for PE or "basket weaving" courses appropriate? Another might be integration of appropriate extracurricular activities into the "core" and into the "grading" (evaluation system). Why not PE credits for participation in organized sports and tangible grades and credits for legitimate and well supervised Math, History, Debate, Science, and Drama clubs, plus meaningful extra Teacher pay or the hiring of outside (and perhaps retired) subject matter experts? And why not use school space and facilities for more than just 8 – 3pm. Night school, community activities, and lease space to even private institutions to offset expenses of the mostly idle school "plant"?

    • Roco

      Kids shouldn't get credit or grades for being on the football team – for example – since that would make an already existing problem even worse. Your other ideas do have some merit. I would throw in some vocational training for all students as well. Having a trade is a very useful thing.

      • Taxpayer1234

        I hear ya. I had both shop and home ec in middle school. While I didn't use those skills for a job, they were very handy in helping me run (and repair) my home.

    • aspacia

      Agreed, and schools are often used after hours for activities and Adult Ed.

      Again, those who are expert in their fields administrators often target.

  • Supreme_Galooty

    There are examples of good teachers in history. Socrates, Plato, and Tagore come immediately to mind. The bright, shining stars of American pedagogy, however, seem to appear only OUTSIDE of the governmental educational blunderbuss, Marva Collins, Ludwig von Mises, Walter E. Williams, Albert Jay Nock, et alia being a few examples.

    When one wishes to achieve excellence, one first looks outside the sphere of government, and secondly outside the influence of trade unions. Government (the very word means to inhibit or control) is a miasma of bureaucracies that spawn mediocrity in abundance. Trade unions mandate mediocrity in that excellence is rewarded at the same rate as substandard performance. Additionally, trade unions actively oppose any culling of the feckless.

    If one wished ill for a society, one could do no better than to wish upon them a vast governmental educational system.

  • joy52

    If you look at teacher pay and benefits, which have risen, and outcomes for students, which we all know have dropped dramatically, you have your answer.

    Teachers aren't smart. They do what their union tells them to do. They sacfifice teaching the basics for political correctness. Teachers unions destroyed education. Kids and parents who don't like what is going on have to sit in silence.

    • aspacia

      I do not follow the dictates of the CCEA at all, and they are an association.

      It is the bureaucrats not teachers who cause the social promotion and stupidity of our youth.

  • Roco

    So the premise of this whole article is teachers have good jobs and that is terrible. Aren't good FPMers supposed to worship those who have good income? All those robber barons on wall street are venerated and while I admit they plunder billions the teacher should be accorded a level of worship fitting their pay scale.

    I suppose they haven't taken enough. Well, that and they actually work to forward their interests politically. Which is bad for everyone but the very rich it would seem.

    • Rightly Guided Bob

      No, the premise is that teachers unions are systematically destroying the education of future generations.

      Maybe you need to go back to school.

  • GKC

    So the premise of this whole article is teachers have good jobs and that is terrible.

    No. This is your premise of the premise of the whole article. Better read it again.

  • Rightly Guided Bob

    I consider the Faculty of Education in the universities to be the source of the problem. Why should those egg-heads have 4 years to indoctrinate the next generation of those who will be educating our children? Teachers should know their core subject, not a bunch of "social theory." They should learn to teach by apprenticeship.

    It's the egg heads in the bureacracy and education industry who are destroying everything.

    Disband the Faculty of Education, the NEA, and the Department of Education, and you will set learning free in America.

  • StephenD

    Having a number of teachers in the family I can attest to some having a real zeal for their work while others become jaded. They all are compensated very well, who is kidding who, 180 days work per year?! Most have great benefits and retirement packages. On the other hand, they do have a legitimate issue with them being made to act as surrogate parent, nurse maid, referee, counselor, etc. They have no choice in the make up of their classrooms. Public schools MUST take in mentally challenged kids as well as gifted ones.
    Perhaps if we went back to the days before political correctness became the main and called it like it was…. Slow kids should be in the slow kids classes. Gifted ones in the gifted classes. Troubled kids dealt with accordingly. Maybe if private schools had to really compete with the public schools on equal footing (taking in these “Others”) there would be some positive change.
    Regardless, the public schools have become a harbinger of the political left and are jeopardizing our future because of it.

  • O-oh!

    Quiting the Census report linked to this artilcle: "Average annual salary of public school teachers in California as of the 2006-2007 school year — the highest of any state. Teachers in South Dakota received the lowest pay — $35,378. The national average was $50,758."
    The average teacher salary does not seem overly high to me. Going to college and ending up earning less than $50K would make no sense to me. I want teachers to be well paid and not take up second jobs to feed their families.

    • InsaneInTheMembrane

      Going to college AND getting a graduate degree and still earning less than $50K.

  • mrbean

    Not many of the unionized teachers who are leftist indoctrinators not teachers

  • Don Kosloff

    No the eye is the window of knowledge. Teachers, at best, are only helpers. At worst they help to cloud the eyes.

  • aspacia

    Good teachers are needed, but lousy administrators and the Department of Education must go.

    Pedadogy majors have the lowest GPA on any university campus.

    Geez, I was shocked that so many of my peers did not know basic grammar.

  • aspacia

    Hi bean,

    I am unionized to protect myself by laws. Do you realize that administrators, and our new Superintendent Jones in Nevada is forcing teachers to pass students through the system. Look, during flush times in Vegas, these students can obtain jobs as valets and during a good shift make $60,000 annually. This is tough for teachers unless casinos refuse to hire without a diploma or GED.

  • aspacia

    Right, we facilitate learning, and no, most here cannot do my job. You would probably deck some of the brats I have to work with. Oh, but they are children, and we mustn't hurt their self-esteem, self-esteem to the extreme with zero ability or earned success that appears in 50% of my students.