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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