We are fortunate to have many readers who teach or have family members who teach; hence, we derive no pleasure whatsoever from any negativity about teachers. Unionized teachers are paid primarily on longevity, not merit; therefore, truly good teachers are underpaid while poor teachers are vastly overpaid. Nonetheless, when taken in the aggregate, teachers are not underpaid for the following reasons.
1. Logic: Underpaid teachers is a canard promoted by the liberal media. No other job in America has been so consistently asserted to be either overpaid or underpaid. Such a systemic imbalance simply cannot persist for long in a market economy.
2. Apples-to-apples: Those claiming underpayment use false comparisons. They disingenuously assume STEM degrees, earned by students in top deciles of their class, are worth the same as education degrees earned by those mostly in lower deciles.
3. Not results oriented: Teacher pay is based on seniority, not merit. All teachers from best to worst are equal – as is the case in most unionized jobs. In the real world, pay is tied to results. Union rules severely penalize the best teachers and reward the worst. Moreover, what value do unions add if its members truly are vastly underpaid?
4. Private school salaries: If unionized public school teachers truly were underpaid, we should expect to see private school teachers earning more. Instead, nonreligious private school teachers earn 15% to 20% less than their public school counterparts.
5. Objective surveys: Studies document teachers are not underpaid. The BLS National Compensation Survey showed no underpayment. Forbes listed the 25 most underpaid jobs in America; teachers were not among them – same with most other surveys.
6. Post teaching pay: When teachers quit to accept non-teaching jobs, their pay does not increase; this seems to make a prima facie case that they were not underpaid.
7. Lifetime employment: Teachers have guaranteed lifetime employment, a perquisite no one in the private sector enjoys. They can’t be fired for incompetence or even if they are a danger; instead, they are put in rubber rooms with full salary and benefits.
8. Overpaid government workers: Study upon study shows public sector workers are paid about 25% more for the same work than those in the private sector. Since teachers are government workers, it stands to reason they also are overpaid by that amount.
9. Benefits: Teachers receive lifetime health care for their entire family, uber-generous government guaranteed pensions paid early, and lots of vacation and holidays.
10. Public sector unions: Teacher pay is set by public sector unions based on highly coercive bargaining, is paid with tax dollars and is not driven by markets. As is the case with public sector unions, the pay is higher than comparable private sector jobs.
Stories about low teacher pay are mostly promulgated by the liberal media that are allied with public unions and government. All objective data and logic point to the opposite conclusion, i.e. teachers actually are somewhat overpaid. To repeat, the pay of good teachers is dragged down by the larger cohort of not so good teachers.
In an ideal world, all parents would receive vouchers to choose any school. Teachers’ compensation would be determined solely by markets – not tenure. Teachers would be paid according to individual merit, with truly outstanding teachers richly compensated. Poor teachers would be fired and all rubber rooms abolished.
Our next post honors Constitution Day, which is September 17th.