Teachers Are Actually Overpaid, Report Says

teachers actually overpaid reportThe fact that public-school teachers are undervalued in this country has become something of a truism. They are "desperately underpaid," according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. They are "the most undervalued resource in our society," claimed talk show host Tavis Smiley. "Salaries are too low," said George W. Bush in 2003. But a new report suggests that the opposite may be true.

Jason Richwine and Andrew Biggs, researchers at the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, two leading conservative think tanks, argue in a new report that the country's 3.2 million teachers may be overpaid by over 50 percent or more, given their salary, benefits, job security, and intellectual ability.

This isn't the first study to take on the politically sizzling issue of how much we pay the molders of our nation's young. And shockingly, the results fall pretty cleanly along ideological lines.

According to Census data, Richwine and Biggs admit that teachers do look underpaid; they receive a 20 percent lower salary than private-sector workers with the same level of education, and have benefits approximately the same.

These numbers are flawed, however, according to Richwine and Biggs. They show that the typical worker who moves from the private sector into teaching receives a salary increase of 8.8 percent, and the typical teacher who enters the private sector receives a pay cut of 3.1 percent. If teachers were underpaid, they write, "this is the opposite of what one would expect."

They also admit, however, that given the small sample size of workers who switch between teaching and non-teaching, "these data should not be considered precise." It is also probable that a private sector worker who would receive a significant pay cut from becoming a teacher is less likely to fulfill that mid-career calling.


Schools Out For the Summer!

The report further claims that the truncated work year of the average teacher skews the numbers. Teachers receive their salary for an average of nine months of work, which means their average workweek salary is higher than that of private employees, whose salary is for a full-year of labor.

This argument rehashes a 2007 report by The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, another conservative think tank. That research looked at hourly wages. In weeks teachers worked, they labored apparently for 36.5 hours, and took home $34.06 for each of those hours, more than architects, psychologists, chemists, mechanical engineers, economists, and reporters. There's just one minor hole in this analysis: Teachers work 36.5 hours a week?

Teachers alleged higher salaries are cushioned by higher job security. The average unemployment rate for public school teachers between 2005 and 2010 was 2.1 percent, the report states, compared to an average of 3.8 percent for workers in similarly skilled occupations. That means less time, on average, job hunting without pay.


Earning Above Their IQ?

Since 2003, the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute has been doing a running study on how much teachers earn compared to other occupations with similar education and work experience, like accountants, reporters, computer programmers and clergy. As of 2010, teachers earned 12 percent less than members of those professions, 9 percent less if you tally in benefits.

The level of education measure obscures some important facts, according to Richwine and Biggs. While a large proportion of teachers have bachelor's or master's degrees, over two thirds have their highest degree in education, which they claim is not a particularly rigorous path of study. You don't have to work as hard and it's easier to score an A in education, supposedly, than in the sciences, social sciences or humanities.

While teachers score above average on national intelligence tests, they allegedly fare worse than other college graduates. Richwine and Biggs therefore conclude that teachers are overpaid, given their average raw intelligence. They get more bucks per IQ point (with IQ determined by the perhaps dubious measure of standardized tests).

But this also suggests that the teaching profession fails to attract and retain the highest skilled college students. So examined through a reverse lens, this could be an argument for even higher salaries.


Retiring In Style

The report also argues that teachers' benefits are more generous than private employees'. On the surface, both teachers and private sector workers receive benefits at about 41 percent of their salaries.

Pensions, however, are financed differently in the public and private sector. The public sector, the researchers claim, invests in risky assets with an approximately 8 percent rate of return. If the investments fall in value, the "public employers -- meaning, ultimately, taxpayers -- must increase their contributions to the pension funds."

If teachers and private employees contribute the same percent of their salaries to their pension funds, teachers will receive retirement benefits 4.5 times higher, according the report, because teachers have a guaranteed higher rate of return.

Richwine and Biggs emphasize that they are talking about the average teacher, not the best ones, and they recommend a pay system that rewards high performing teachers. Merit-based pay raises are already under consideration in Ohio and Florida.

In a statement, the American Federation of Teachers, a union that represents 1.5 million educators, stated that the report "defies common sense." The researchers ignore the fact, the AFT argued, that teachers work long hours outside the classroom grading papers, planning lessons and attending school events. The AFT also stated that teachers spend hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket, buying supplies for their students.

"Does this mean we should go out and arbitrarily cut teacher salaries? No," Biggs said at a briefing. The researchers simply wanted to correct the assumption that teachers were paid below market rates. Trimming benefits, they argue, won't cause a mass exodus of educators.



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Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

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jjlindsay1@yahoo.com

Bullshit, the people who came up with the idea that our teachers are overpaid are overpaid morons.

June 25 2013 at 1:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
schoolteacher12b

I would like to know how I make a lot of money?. I work as a special education teacher, often writing IEPs at my house in the evening that can take hours. I don't just work a few hours a day. My schedule starts at 7:30 and I receive students at 8:00. From then on, I have kids until 11:00. I then get a 30 minute lunch break and gets students from 11:30 until 2:50 nonstop. On the days my students have behavior problems, I don't even get a lunch break. My planning is 15 minutes long. As I recall, working in a department store in college, I had more breaks than I do now. While yes, I do have great insurance and retirement, I don't make more than $31,000 a year and I'm in my third year. Please tell me how I am making way more than I deserve. I can also tell that most of you are not a teacher or have ever been in the classroom as an adult. I bust my ass at work every day because all my students require one on one attention and my paychecks are around $900. I am also working on a masters degree and my classes are $1500 or per for a 3 credit hour class. I'd like to invite any of you into my classroom for one day to see what I deal with. When you are getting punched, having students bite and kick, we'll see how long you last and see how much you would want paid. I am not complaining, I love my job and I wouldn't trade it for anything, but it is a job that most people could not do, nor want to do.

November 19 2012 at 10:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pacer66

Never hear the Republicans wanting to cut the "regulations" educators have to undergo every year. It changes with the tide and political whim...

October 01 2012 at 3:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pacer66's comment
Mike

Never hear the Democrats wanting to cut any regulation.

Ideally, we'd eliminate all public funding for education.

October 13 2012 at 4:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kenneth

US teachers that think they are underpaid should move to Canada. Teacher in Canada are grossly overpaid, which is great for the teacher and back for the tax payer. Average salary is 83,500$ for 9.25 months of work (some make more). You can work during the summer and increase your salary above the 83,500$ or you can travel the world or live at the cottage for the summer months.

The pensions are subsidized and therefore guaranteed not to loose value despite high risk investments. You get 20 sick days during the school year or you can keep them and they accumulate. You have to cash them out when you accumulate 200 sick days in total. The current burden on the province of Ontario for example is 1 billiion dollars to teachers who have accumulated sick days. So it's like a massive bonus for staying healthy.

Finally, you give out work and give marks based on "your opinion" so you don't have to worry about anybody grading you or making sense when you grade or your work being torn to bits by an insecure overpaid corporate business boss that wants to show dominance in front of his business peers.

If you ask me... move to Canada it's an easy peasy decision. I'm switching from high tech to teacher this year! :)

August 06 2012 at 5:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kenneth's comment
Matt Berry

Just how much do you think educators get paid in the US? I have seen VERY few educators get paid anywhere near that much.

March 26 2013 at 1:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rv

Teachers love to whine about how they are underpaid and over worked. Fact of the matter is that teachers make more money per day worked that most other professions. Where I live, teachers work 180 school days a year which translates to 8 months and 1 week of work, almost 4 months less work than everyone else. Not to mention that the school day from bell to bell is only 6 hours and 35 minutes that is divided into 7 periods. Teachers can only be required to teach a maximum of 5 periods, which leaves them with 1 period for their lunch and 1 period for themselves. That results in roughly 4 hours and 45 minutes of time with students in the classroom. Teachers also receive 15 sick days and 5 personal days a school year which they can roll over and accumulate endlessly. I have a friend who is a teacher and makes $60,000 a school year and has only been teaching for a few years. His per work day pay is equivalent to someone that works all year and makes $87,000. He has averaged a 6% pay increase every year. Hypothetically speaking, if he was of retirement status now he would retire collecting $42,000 a year plus health benefits for the rest of his life. Also, the school district in which I live has a supplemental teachers retirement fund, in which a teacher that has at least 20 years teaching will receive $30,000 ( $7,500 a year for 4 years) after they retire. Also, the teacher is guarantied a minimum pay raise of 6% a year for the last 4 years ( minimum 24% increase for last 4 years) of their employment before retirement, boosting their pension which is based off the best 4 years of their employment. Pretty nice considering all of that money comes from tax payer dollars.

February 23 2012 at 11:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to rv's comment
Trez

Amen Lisa! I agree wholeheartedly. Even in affluent areas kids are dealing with neglect, abuse, and pure stupidness. Just because you have money it doesn't mean you are a good parent with good sense. That's what no one seems to understand. Everybody has bagage and to be effective; a teacher must break through it. Publish your comment so just as many people see it who saw that stupid article.

December 29 2011 at 6:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Trez's comment
henchalwoog

You will not convince me that every teacher is deserving of this kind of compensation...many are unmotivated and less inteligent then myself (architect) and they make more money. I have no qualms about paying for quality but the majority of teachers today do not earn what they make.

September 24 2012 at 1:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to henchalwoog's comment
andrika16

You are positing that all architects are intelligent? Since when is being an architect a measure of intelligence?

October 01 2012 at 4:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
Matt Berry

Intelligence has nothing to do with pay.

March 26 2013 at 1:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
kh

This article makes one thing perfectly clear: researchers at the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute are vastly overpaid given their intellectual ability.

December 05 2011 at 10:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to kh's comment
andrika16

As are most who are paid educational consultants who are paid SIX FIGURE salaries to fix the education system. What a wonderful job they have been doing.

October 01 2012 at 4:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
I'mWithStupid

Ive been to my son's school from elementary to high school and while there are some exceptional teachers, the vast majority are lazy overpaid bureaucrats who lack the common sense to come in out of the rain. Standardized testing and tenure for teachers should be eliminated. Teachers should be paid for performance and held accountable for their attitudes.

Save the excuses about long hours and money spent out of pocket. You go to work after eight and leave at four every day with off periods sprinkled in. You work ten months out of twelve and travel once or twice a year for a conference. You act as if you're actually developing, creating or solving problems. You regurgitate what you're told by the State.

If teachers and state curriculum bureaucrats were held accountable for the crap they offer we wouldn't be turning out so many uneducated idiots and the country wouldn't be in such sad shape.

December 05 2011 at 1:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to I'mWithStupid's comment
Matt Berry

Your name explains it all... Stupid

March 26 2013 at 1:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Digitalclips

The GI Bill was a great experiment. Give a good education to those that want it paid for by taxes. Every research paper ever done on this experiment shows the USA got back way more than it cost through having theses better educated citizens. Teachers are the key to the success of a country. Something many other countries now realize which is why the USA is falling way behind in science, engineering and math.

December 04 2011 at 11:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Digitalclips's comment
Mike

Um, no. Education spending paid for by taxes has quadrupled over the past 40 years (inflation adjusted); and the results have shown no increase in the quality of education. That's the real experiment.

The GI Bill and other government college funding programs are the main cause of the skyrocketing costs of college education. Here again, the quality has not improved, but the ease of grants and credit has led to ballooning costs.

If you want good teachers - then privatize education.

October 13 2012 at 4:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Politically-Speaking

Well,gosh -that's a shocker... hacks from the ultra-right-wing Heritage Foundation and the equally batty AEI managed to pervert data and statistics to "prove" civil servants are "overpaid"? Stop the presses!!!

Next up - Condie Rice will declare the country was safe during her boyfriend's... error, I mean GW's reign.

December 04 2011 at 10:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Politically-Speaking's comment
Mike

What a shocker, a leftist calls objective facts "ultra-right wing".

October 13 2012 at 4:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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