New study: Teachers are overpaid?

by Evil HR Lady on January 16, 2012

A new study by the Heritage Foundation found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, teachers are actually overpaid when you compare them with “comparable private sector workers.”

To read more on this surprising study (and why I think their conclusions are wrong) click here: New study: Teachers are overpaid?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon January 16, 2012 at 5:46 pm

I don’t know if teachers are really overpaid or not, and can you really throw a term like overpaid at such a large profession. There are huge differences in pay between teachers in the rich suburbs, inner cities, and rural areas. Let alone that the methodology of their “skill & knowledge” comparison is highly suspect.

Most importantly when comparing union employees to at-will the effect of unionization must be separated from the difference attributed to skills and education. I think a much more interesting analysis would be to compare teacher to other unionized professions (nurses, cops, fire fighters, pipe fitters, state / federal employees, etc..) and then to the population as a whole. I think it would show what we all know unionized typically achieves higher benefits, more job stability, and potentially higher total wages. The heritage foundation article is really not about teachers being overpaid but about union employees being overpaid.

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Curt Finch January 16, 2012 at 5:50 pm

I am interested to see where this study goes, and how exactly value is derived, since in teaching it seems somewhat subjective, at least when considering where to draw the line. If you base value on results in standardized tests, then I think you can make the above argument, however, if you look at the teacher as a mentor and a fundamental force molding students into better members of society, things become more murky. Unfortunately it is difficult to test such things. This is a common trend when evaluating knowledge workers, as at some point measurements must be put in place that cannot measure the total value of their contribution. If I wasn’t so positive it would be abused immediately, I might almost suggest instituting a relative judgement system that takes subjective viewing of teacher-student relationships into account.

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Joey January 17, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Of course their overpaid. In fact most in the education field are overpaid. Especially when you take into account as a whole they’re doing a pretty poor job of preparing kids to enter the professional world. I see way too many that enter the workforce and can’t fill out an application properly, can’t write their own resume and can’t do the basics of the job. And those are the ones with degrees.

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Joey January 17, 2012 at 6:57 pm

they’re

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jmkenrick January 18, 2012 at 9:39 pm

I don’t think I agree that the profession is overpaid. I think some of the individuals might be overpaid – but I think what we should look at isn’t a question of hours put in or how hard the work is, but how much we value the work.

There’s a lot of fields (professional sports and modeling come to mind) where the work itself is no where near difficult enough to merit the paycheck that people are getting. But our society values those roles, and as long as we’re willing to watch the game and buy the overpriced jerseys, we’re essentially ok-ing their salary.

I think Evil HR Lady’s point is that if we want better teachers we need to be willing to pay them more so it becomes a competitive position and good people wind up edging out those teachers who can’t even write their own resume. I don’t think teaching will become competitive until it offers a better salary.

(Also, I think they should have at-will firing, so it’s easy to get rid of bad teachers, but that’s a separate issue.)

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A Teacher January 18, 2012 at 11:04 pm

I teach high school, and I can only dream of what I would do with the $55,000 that those lucky Pennsylvania teachers make. Teachers in my Southern district start at almost half that, and there are no raises for the first three years.

Obviously I started teaching in spite of the salary, but I don’t think that raising the wages for teachers would necessarily attract better teachers. I think teaching should be viewed as a profession on par with medicine or engineering, rather than glorified babysitting. I am tired of students joking about how poor teachers are, of parents and administrators questioning my judgments, and legislators thinking they know how to run a classroom. There is not a lot of respect or prestige associated with teaching, and I don’t think money alone will solve that problem.

As for Jmkendrick’s comment about at-will firing, I always like to clear up misconceptions about teacher tenure. In most states, tenure for public school teachers is different than that of college professors. If you have tenure, and administrators want to fire you, they must document your incompetence, just like any good manager would. If administrators don’t document, they will have trouble at the grievance hearing later. In my state, it now takes five years before a teacher can earn tenure. That is five years (up from three, which I thought was plenty!) for a principal to decide if someone is a dud and just not hire them back. It shouldn’t be too hard to fire teachers, but unfortunately, many duds stay in the system and get shifted to the worst schools in the district, thus compounding the problem.

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jmkenrick January 19, 2012 at 1:13 am

I grew up in California, where many of my friends are now teachers. According to them, when there are layoffs, they have to be based on seniority. Is that incorrect? If that’s the case, then these systems definitely lack at-will employment, because during lay-offs, companies should be focused on keeping the most valuable players, regardless of how long they’ve been at the school. Not sure what it’s like in the south, obviously.

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Ry January 19, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Thanks for the insightful article, but I think you’re giving the Heritage Foundation way too much credit. They’re hopelessly right-wing and would like to do away with education altogether. (Clearly history is among the things they do not understand: Mills started the public school system as a way to generate workers who would be just educated enough to perform well in factories and institutional settings – people who could read, write, and do sums, but not think critically.)

I would definitely question their methodology, as well as their motives, because first of all, what is the definition of a “comparable private-sector worker?” Teaching is a pretty specific group of activities and skills, not especially comparable to jobs other than, well, teaching.

In my area, state-certified secondary-school teachers with bachelors’ degrees start around $35K/year. The student:teacher ratio hovers right around 25:1. I would love to teach, but to spend so much time working, and to spend so much of that salary supplementing the classroom materials that the schools and families can no longer afford, while making such a small income, would kill me. I can’t do it because I wouldn’t be able to support my own family. I wish I could. I don’t know how they do it.

Perhaps the Heritage Foundation could spend their vast wealth assisting the public school system rather than creating “studies” that attempt to denigrate teachers under false pretenses.

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Steve Geoghan January 22, 2012 at 1:19 am

I teach religion 1 hour a week and with the preparation, curriculum buidling, making copies, background reading, it is really a 4 hour/week job + the attached worry/stress. I used to teach 30 hours ESL/week, which equates to 50-55 hours with all of the preparations. Teaching is very hard, because the work is never really done – there are always improvements to the curriculum to make. That alone causes alot of stress warranting “high salaries.” And I’ve never seen a teach I deemd overpaid. There were a few who would live if they had a few thousand shaved off of their salaries, but by no means was anyone overpaid.

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