Every time a politician says we need to spend more money on education, I want to shout, “No, we don’t!”
While too many public school children are being inadequately educated, there is ample evidence that most public school teachers are being more than adequately compensated for not educating our children.
CNS reports that a new study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that school teachers “receive greater average hourly compensation in wages and benefits than any other group of state and local government workers and receive more than twice as much in average hourly wages and benefits as workers in private industry.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that public primary, secondary and special education teachers make an average of $56.59 per hour in combined wages and benefits. It is more than twice the $28.24 in average hourly wages and benefits for workers in private industry (the workers whose taxes help pay the teachers).
Meanwhile, American Enterprise Institute scholar Andrew Biggs and Jason Richwine of the Heritage Foundation have also done groundbreaking work that refutes the common notion that teachers are “desperately underpaid.” They have a list of eight reasons why, contrary to popular perception, teachers aren’t underpaid.
“Paying our teachers a competitive salary commensurate with the salaries of employees in the private sector with similar skills" is one of the policy preferences of Occupy Wall Street. Biggs and Richwine couldn’t agree more—we do need to compensate teachers with competitive salaries commensurate with their skills.
However, Biggs and Richwine noted in a November article in USA Today:
The implication of the protesters' demand, however, is that teachers are paid far too little given their skills. The opposite is actually true: According to our analysis of salaries, fringe benefits and job security, most public school teachers are paid considerably more than what they could earn in private-sector jobs. Perhaps that explains why so few teachers have made the leap.
On average, teachers who leave for the private sector take a small salary cut, based on our analysis of Census Bureau data. Private-sector workers who shift into teaching typically get a salary increase. Based on these findings and other supporting data, our best estimate is that teacher salaries are about equal with similarly skilled private employees.
Fringe benefits, however, are not equal. Compare pensions for full-career teachers retiring today to what they might receive in a private sector 401(k) plan, and the difference is startling.
Next time you hear President Obama describing teachers as a woefully underpaid and put-upon group, think about this.
Think also of the education unions that make it hard to fire teachers who don’t teach.